From making the words ‘unprecedented’, ‘social distance’ and ‘sanitiser’ part of our everyday language, to cancelling events, there was not much that wasn’t impacted.
Even here in the Limestone Coast the impacts were severely felt at the height of the pandemic.
One stable of businesses which did it particularly tough was Kaboom Family Entertainment and the Treehouse Adventure Centre.
Kaboom Family Entertainment owner and manager Stewart Owen said COVID-19 had pulled the rug out from underneath his businesses.
“We had only just relocated the Treehouse Adventure Centre to its new premises on Penola Road and had been open for a week and a half, we watched the news and it was game over. We were told we were closing that night, with no notice, as a lot of businesses were,” he said.
“When it first happened we looked at each other and thought ‘let’s just process what this actually means’.
“My thoughts were if the business closes, the wages will stop. So you won’t have to pay anyone, you won’t be buying any stock, the costs will stop, the insurance had just been paid and it was really only electricity and a few incidentals along the way, I thought well I imagine if the government is making the businesses close they will tell the landlords.
“Thank goodness for us we paused the loans we had and went into hibernation for three months.”
Mr Owen said the forced closure allowed him to “stop and take a breath”.
“It had been five very full on years at the treehouse, we’d done two playground upgrades at the old treehouse, and then with the purchase of the bowling alley that had kept me busy as that needed a lot of work on it,” he said.
“We reopened in July, one week before school holidays, which is normally our busiest time of year, and this was double what we ever did in the past.
“We have never seen so much support flooding through the front doors in the past five years.
“We could only open for two hours and then had to shut for a 30 minute clean of the equipment and then we could reopen for another two hours and close for another 30 minutes.
“We were having lines of 300-400 people each session, it was crazy. And of course we had no money as we’d been closed, we were using juniors, family were donating time, we were using work experience people to keep the doors open.”
Mr Owen said the business was almost back to pre-COVID trade.
“We have COVID safe plans and we have COVID marshals, for the most part it’s about commonsense, we know how to social distance, we know to sanitise our hands, the generation growing up now will look for the sanitiser,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all.
“The Mount Gambier community has been absolutely awesome in the way that they have supported us, it has just been incredible and we are very thankful.”
Times were just as tough at the Oatmill Cinema, which was also forced to close.
Assistant Manager Tracy Lalich said the closure prompted some different ideas from the venue.
“We decided to do what other takeaway venues did, so we offered a takeaway service where people could order their popcorn and choc tops and favourite lollies that they couldn’t get elsewhere,” she said.
“It did quite well, it was a novelty for the first week, but it did fizzle out.”
Mrs Lalich said the cinema staff then made the most of the opportunity to freshen up the complex, including creating a mural in the toilets.
“It looks great, we’ve had a lot of feedback to say it looks great and fresh.
“We have updated our point of sale system as well, with our new program it also specifies for allocated seating, which we had to do under our COVID safe plan.”
One of the biggest changes inside the cinema was the introduction of distancing between seats.
“Pre-COVID our largest cinema seated 200 people, it’s less than half of that now,” she said.
“We’ve had to reduce the distance between each seat, so every second row is blocked. There will be a vacant row in front of you. If you come with a family, or a group of friends you can sit together.
“However, if you come by yourself and some friends come along you can’t sit together, you will then have two seats separating the individuals.”
Mrs Lalich said, like most places with a COVID safe plan, the cinema had implemented extra cleaning for the high touch areas such as doors, door handles and also installed sensor lights in the toilets.
“Most people are positive and everyone is responding well,” she said.
“The bonus is you can now go online and book your own ticket and choose your own seat. It was something we had planned on doing but it pushed us to do it, we will always keep that.
“We are looking forward to school holidays, we do expect it will be busy, there is a new Trolls World Tour movie which will be popular – that’s a big one.
“Our opening hours have changed as a result of COVID, so we are no longer open on Mondays.
“We really appreciate our members, there would have to be at least a dozen members who have been back at least once a week, if not twice a week, because they have missed going to the movies.
“It’s quite emotional for them as well as us, there was a bit of anxiety the day we reopened and just seeing the patrons walking through the door it just meant so much.”