Dubbo cafe owner Georgia Stevens is not surprised by the results of a new survey that shows more than half of small business operators in hospitality say they've lost 50 per cent or more of their revenue in the past few months.
COVID-19 forced her to close the doors of The Gallery Dubbo for more than two months, only reopening at the start of June.
Since then Ms Stevens has had to contend with capacity rules of no more than one customer per four square metres of space, applicable across the cafe industry.
"Trading was really cut down so we implemented only seating for meals, which everyone was lovely about because we had to just pump the tables out," she said.
"I think we had to turn over four sittings of breakfast, whereas usually we just do one."
The cafe owner reports having to let go "about 40 per cent" of her staff in March, and at reopening has re-employed only those eligible for JobKeeper.
Ms Stevens would like to see the wage subsidy program continued beyond the end of September, its current cutoff, until the end of the year.
"JobKeeper has helped me a lot, so the staff I have on now, I've only had to reemploy the staff that I can get the JobKeeper for," she said.
"But I think if that ends, it's going to be hard, I think we need a lot more time, because we still have the regulations in place."
A new survey of more than 200 small business owners commissioned by Australian coffee roaster Harris Coffee shows the challenges faced by Ms Stevens are common across the sector.
It also revealed 80 per cent of small business owners in hospitality believed they would not recover from recent hardships without support.
The results have prompted Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell to champion the needs of Dubbo cafe owners and their peers across the country.
Ms Carnell said it was clear from the report that cafes had been among the hardest hit by COVID restrictions.
Although we know that outbreaks will happen... it is actually impossible for a café owner to plan for that. They will lose stock, and for small businesses that are already seriously cash-strapped, there’s a real risk an event like this could break them.https://t.co/l5bJLFm9q0— Kate Carnell (@KateCarnellAus) July 3, 2020
"It's incredibly tough to be in small business right now and particularly if you happen to own a café," Ms Carnell said.
"More than 40 per cent of respondents to this survey said they don't expect to be able to stay open for longer than six months without additional support and over half say they've lost 50 per cent or more of their revenue over the past few months.
"What it tells us is there will be a prolonged period before these small business owners are back on their feet.
"JobKeeper has certainly been effective in keeping many of these businesses afloat, but some additional targeted support will likely be required to help these once-viable cafes get to the other side of this difficult time."