With the local economy taking a big hit over the cancelled Valentine’s weekend because of the COVID five-day lockdown recently, Mildura Regional Development and the Mildura Weekly decided something had to be done.

That’s how the ‘Show Mildura Love’ campaign was born.

The aim is simple. To support local businesses this weekend in an effort to help them recoup lost opportunities and income.

Mildura Regional Development (MRD) CEO, Brett Millington said that his organisation was delighted to be partnering with the Mildura Weekly for the Show Mildura Love promotion and encouraged people to ‘hit the town’ tonight and across the weekend to support local hospitality and retail businesses.

“It is always a great partnership between MRD and the ‘Weekly. We have worked together on lots of different projects and we think this is another great initiative that it is hoped will generate some much-needed revenue for local businesses this weekend,” Mr Millington said.

“We also have our ‘Crafted by Mildura’ event coming up on the March long weekend − Sunday March 7, that will see nine venues across the region hosting some great activities. Tickets are selling fast, with just 50 remaining.
“So the message is that there are lots of positive things happening and let’s keep supporting one another this weekend and participate in events like Crafted by Mildura to enjoy our magnificent region.”

Owner of the Langtree Inn Haydar Pehlivan, ABOVE, said that the booking cancellations on the weekend of the lockdown had a devastating impact on his business.

“It was going to be a very busy weekend, and by Wednesday, we were already booked out upstairs and downstairs as well as the balcony,” he said.

Then suddenly the lockdown came and put an end to all of that. It affected every business and the Government themselves lose too through loss of tax receipts.

“Everyone lost. It’s very hard to take when we don’t have any cases here in Mildura and yet we continue to be lumped in with Melbourne everytime there is an outbreak. It doesn’t have to be that way − we are almost 600 kilometres away from Melbourne. Why don’t they draw the line at Bendigo and stop anyone from entering Mildura from Melbourne.

Haydar is nonetheless putting a positive face on things and hopes tonight and the weekend is going to be a chance to recoup some of the losses from the lockdown.

“We are looking forward to a great night and a busy weekend and we hope we have an Easter this year,” he said.

“We didn’t have an Easter last year and it is the busiest time of the year for every single business in hospitality. During the lockdown last year when I had to close the shop for three months and just survive on takeaway, I still had to pay the full rent. The balcony wasn’t used for three months and yet my rental overheads remained the same − it was tough going − but it’ not just me, everyone was in the same situation.”

“It’s really about us all gathering together and supporting businesses like Haydar’s who have experienced this hardship,” Mr Millington said.

“And showing that we care and it is a great opportunity to make up for the missed Valentine’s Day weekend and to make it a whole weekend of love.
“We invite people to get out and about with family and friends and really enjoy this wonderful town and region that we live in and show it some love.”

With JobKeeper coming to an end soon, some businesses may find the going tough for a while, but the State Government has announced some compensation for small businesses affected by the recent snap lockdown, something Mr Millington said was welcome.

“Thankfully the Victorian Government have announced support for businesses like the Langtree Inn to compensate for the last lockdown which will see some dollars come into the business,” he said.

“As I have advocated, it really is in a lot of cases, just covering off on costs, because orders were already made, and as we heard Haydar say, the loss of bookings – the lost opportunities can’t be made up for easily, but this weekend is a chance to make some of that ground back.
“And so while that support is welcome, and is certainly needed, it is really about the here and now and how we get that lost opportunity back and return it into our economy and so we are asking people to come out, while understanding that there are still some challenges to be faced and understanding that our local traders need our support to get through this.”