Bushfire-affected food businesses are facing new challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing some to close or drastically change their operations to stay afloat.
Eurobodalla Shire Council is doing its bit to help operators through the crisis by waiving fees for mandatory food premise inspections, keeping money in the pockets of small business owners.
Mayor Liz Innes said the tangible and targeted assistance would directly benefit local businesses feeling the one-two punch of bushfires and the pandemic.
“While the amounts aren’t huge, it is money that can now stay in the pockets of business owners and requires no effort from them.”
To fund the program, Council is using part of a $250,000 funding package jointly provided by the NSW and Australian governments to all bushfire-impacted councils. Council endorsed the spending plan in March, which also sees regulatory fees absorbed for outdoor dining licences and commercial pool inspections.
The food inspections are underway, saving business owners up to $400 for the year and providing an opportunity for some free advice as they adapt to pandemic restrictions.
Environmental health officer Mike Jones said many restaurants were now operating on a takeaway or home delivery basis and this could present new food safety challenges.
“These people are professionals and understand food safety very well, but they may not be used to dealing with the challenges of preventing cross-contamination between their customers and themselves,” he said.
“These new circumstances bring with them new challenges and each business should be taking advice from the NSW Health website. If they have any difficulty understanding what needs to be done, we’re very happy to help them work that out.”
Corrigans Cove Resort in Batemans Bay is one such business that has switched from in-house dining to home delivery and takeaway.
Owner/operator Andrew Johns said the new approach came with costs, so Council’s offer of free inspections was very welcome.
“Anything that helps reduce the financial impact on small businesses at the moment is critical,” he said. “And the emphasis on food safe work environments and practices ensures the Eurobodalla maintains its great reputation for quality food.”
Above: Eurobodalla Council’s Circe Adams talks food safety and the switch to takeaway and home delivery with Corrigan’s Cove Resort owner Andrew Johns. Council is conducting this year’s mandatory food premise inspections free as part of its bushfire recovery program for business.