Currently over half of Australia’s population is under lockdown restrictions of some sort. It appears that the only safe place to hold an event at the moment is Tasmania.
Financially our industry is getting slammed. So I decided to have a look at where we currently sit.
We are living in a three tiered economy and the events industry is on the bottom rung.
The top rung is reserved for businesses and individuals for whom the current pandemic is having minimal effect. This includes individuals whose income is not affected, and businesses that are actually thriving at the moment.
The individuals include politicians, those working in finance, mining, health care, major institutions, major retail chains, etc. Yes there are stresses on these people but they still have an uninterrupted income.
The businesses that are actually thriving are the major supermarket chains and the likes of Harvey Norman, Bunnings, JB Hi Fi, Officeworks, etc.
Then there are businesses that are just getting on with it – for example the building industry, transport, mining, finance, government, etc.
The second tier includes business that can reopen and get back to business quickly once restrictions are lifted. For example, enterprising café and restaurant owners are now quick to switch to take-away or delivery only and then reopen as soon as restrictions are lifted. Cinemas quickly reopen because it is simply a case of turn off then turn on again. Retailers reopen. Yes they all lose income during the lockdown but they can reopen quickly.
The third tier includes those that lose business completely or take time to reset.
Take tourism; destinations have set capacity and if people do not come due to lockdown then they have lost that business and the income forever.
Live theatre is close to my heart, if a show is shut down the producer still has to find a way to pay the performers, crew and other staff so they will be available to recommence the season once restrictions are lifted. But for them there are two issues – first the booking window at the venue and second the probability that capacity (and income) will go from 100% back to 50% (the most likely option when Sydney comes out of this lockdown).
That then brings us to events. Gary FitzRoy has been at pains to point out that an expo can be shut down or postponed at a moment’s notice, but it then takes months to reschedule (into another vacant slot at the venue), rebook speakers, reissue tickets, rebook crew, transport, etc – and this adds more expense to remounting the expo that is not recoverable.
Take the example of a corporate awards or a charity fundraiser at a major venue with 1,000 guests at full capacity. Tickets have been sold, sponsors secured, MC and entertainment booked, décor designed and booked, AV designed and booked. While on the venue side they have staff rostered, food ordered etc.
Then a two week lockdown is announced and the date has to be moved – first task is to find an available date, because now the venue has to reschedule a dozen events because not only are the actual lockdown events affected but those scheduled for the weeks following the scheduled lockdown also want to move their dates because they are not sure the lockdown will end as scheduled.
Now the organiser has a new date and has to rebook the entertainment, the AV, the décor, the crew, etc. But now the 4 sqm rule has been reintroduced so their capacity is reduced to 50%. Now they have to decide who of the paid up ticket holders can actually come and look at live streaming for those who cannot attend. More expense – less income.
Do the people in the top tier understand what is happening at the lower tier? Certainly not the politicians.
Communication is key
Interesting to see what is happening at the state level. The premiers of NSW and Vic have taken a different approach to lockdowns but have been open in their approach and articulated it well. The premiers of Qld and WA have been belligerent, and the leaders of the other states are just getting on with it.
Interestingly the premiers all seem to agree (as do many opinion writers and commentators – even on Sky) that we are in this mess because Scotty “this is not a race” Morrison has botched it. Morrison sees himself as a great communicator but he is constantly offering excuses or blame shifting. And as he is constantly reminded by the opposition “You had two jobs – quarantine and vaccine”.
Job Keeper was the lifeline that kept many businesses going (mine included) but it ended too soon because we were told it was too much drain on the economy. What is the point of an economy if sectors are crushed and our quality of life is diminished because we have no arts, no theatre, no music, and no events?
The feds have introduced a limited support package that kicks in if a lockdown goes beyond seven days – but it is so complicated that my accountant cannot tell me if I or my staff are eligible.
Fortunately for SMEs in NSW, yesterday the treasurer announced a support package that will certainly assist many smaller businesses (including mine – I think).
Three different grant amounts will be available for small businesses depending on the decline in turnover experienced during the restrictions – $10,000 for a 70 per cent decline, $7,000 for a 50 per cent decline and $5,000 for a 30 per cent decline.
Businesses will be able to apply for the grants through Service NSW from later in July and will need to show a decline in turnover across a minimum two-week period after the commencement of major restrictions on June 26.
The kicker in this statement is “depending on the decline in turnover experienced during the restrictions”. Compared to what? The previous two weeks, the previous month or the same period in 2019?
Does a decline from bugger all in the previous week to absolutely fuck all during lockdown count?