GHOST TOWN: Will Lismore CBD survive COVID-19?
THE arcades may be reminiscent of ghost towns and store fronts populated with for lease signs, but Lismore Chamber of Commerce is bullish on the area's viability.
The COVID-19 measures which introduced social distancing and limited travel created a perfect storm which the Chamber co-president, Sarah Smith, said had hit local business hard.
"Many have seen an immediate effect with changes necessitated by social distancing, others have seen a drop in revenue brought about by reduced spending as families prepare for an uncertain few months, others may be yet to see a decline but are aware that there is unlikely to be any business not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic," Mrs Smith said.
Owner of Curious Ales in the Lismore Arcade, Jeremy Cox said the decline had been noticeable.
"I would say it's a lot quieter, foot traffic is drastically reduced since COVID-19 became an issue … foot traffic I'd say is probably 80 per cent less," Mr Cox said.
While the pandemic has seen some local businesses forced into closure, the Chamber is hopeful that, with time, the business community will flourish.
"It has been heartbreaking to hear of both well-known CBD businesses and also those in the greater Lismore business community that have closed permanently," Mrs Smith said.
"It is a harsh reality that the economic effects of this pandemic will far outlast the pandemic itself, however I do not believe it will cripple the business community.
"Lismore has a strong and resilient business community which has faced many challenges, many businesses have been able adapt, and we are seeing some amazing things happening."
Megan Sherman, owner of Maven Boutique in Keen street, said the CBD still had lots to offer the local community.
"It's really important to have a vibrant CBD … I think there are fantastic cafes and shops in the CBD and lots of very dedicated, hardworking local people and they've seen the CBD through thick and thin," Mrs Sherman said.
With restrictions from the coronavirus beginning to lift, the Chamber is strongly advocating for the revitalisation of the CBD area to attract more consumers.
"We have been advocating for residential development in the CBD and are excited to hear that council is in support of this.
"Not only will this attract new life blood to the CBD but also increase the demand for restaurants, cafes, boutique retail, professional services and support the fantastic businesses which make Lismore unique."