Outraged local business owners slam food van arrivals
ROMA business owners have voiced their anger and frustration at the arrival of out-of-town food vans that have set up shop just over a week after pubs, restaurants and cafes were forced to close their doors.
The Commonwealth Hotel owner and publican Ben Cannon has called for residents to boycott the two food trucks that parked up and began operating on Bowen St after arriving from Ipswich and Brisbane.
"These food trucks have come in here and we don't know where they've been," he said.
"We are trying to run a business, keep people employed - we are struggling as it is.
"The locals want to be supporting local businesses, not people from out of town.
"We should be listening to what the Prime Minister had to say and stay home and do not travel.
"These mobile vans are not essential and they've come here and are affecting our businesses.
"Say we did get a case of the virus in Roma from them, then what happens?
"We've already lost 70 per cent of our businesses, do they want to make it 100?
"I think it comes down to a health issue."
Earlier this week Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for people to ban all non-essential travel and to stay in their suburbs.
Hundreds of workers have been laid off from Roma's pubs, cafe, restaurants and other businesses since the Federal Government introduced Australia-wide strict social distancing measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Paul Levelle, owner of Queensland Country Meats, reiterated Mr Cannon's comments and said "as a community, I think the only way around it - is to boycott".
"We need every cent to be spent locally - we need to look after ourselves first," he said.
"If the town is supporting outsiders, they are practically raping our economy."
Mr Levelle said his shop's turnover had lost 90 per cent of its business.
"While retail has been reasonably strong due to panic buying, our turnover is massively reduced," he said.
"We need to take care of these pubs, clubs, cafes as much as we can.
"We don't know where these food trucks have been, where they get their product from or if they have any measures in place to prevent the virus."
Mr Levelle raised the point that on average, if these food trucks make 50 per cent gross profit, they are looking at $8000 that could have been spent at our local pubs, clubs and cafes.
"That $8000 is more than a weekly turnover that our cafes make," he said.
"These 100 pizzas or couple hotdog sales could go to our local businesses."
The butcher questioned where do the food truck profits go?
"Do they go back into the local football club, that I support?," he asks.
"Do they employ locally? No.
"Those fellas are from Brisbane - they will survive out there, but we will suffer."
Out-of-town food trucks speak out
Owner of Woodfire Pizza Passion, Neville Brooks, stood by his food truck and said he has supported the local community too.
"We are putting money back into your local economy," he said.
"I've just spent $4000 at The Western Wholesalers, $400 to get my exhaust fixed and $200 getting my generator fixed.
"I've bought my stuff at Woolworths and my generators use your power.
"I paid rent here six weeks ago and that money goes towards your rates."
Mr Cannon fired back at that statement and said he pays over $35,000 annually in rates supporting the local economy.
The food trucks were originally planned to provide cuisine for the now cancelled Easter In The Country, an event that brings thousands of tourists to the region each year.
However it was cancelled when the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in new social distancing measures.
Mr Brooks said he visited Roma four times each year and didn't just decide overnight to head out to Roma.
"We paid rent to be here over six weeks ago, well in advance before coronavirus and I'm not going to say now, 'can I have all my money back?'," he said.
The truck owner said he has owned Red Roosters and Pizza Hut stores in the past and stated they don't have even support locals.
"I know for a fact, zero stock is bought locally - it's called quality control.
"I've spent more in this town than what your local businesses are doing.
"I've operated a local business in Charters Towers for 10 years - I have the mentality to give back to the local community.
"When I visit small towns, I make the effort to spend locally.
Similarly, Steve Rix owner of the Wendy's van said he had equally put money back into the town.
"I can show you an account where I spent $3500 locally and filled up with a 1000 litres at the local service station.," he said.
"We aren't just here to rape and pillage your town.
"We don't advertise to be here, if they aren't spending at the local businesses, I can't do anything about that - people are choosing to come here."
Mr Rix said they are providing something different for the locals.
"We are a city brand and try to bring a bit of city to the country and that's been our philosophy for 10 years.
"People can choose to support us or not."
Mayor Tyson Golder commented on the issue
"I understand the frustration and anger of these local businesses," he said.
"The local businesses need our support, especially during this tough time.
"I have received numerous complaints about this issue.
"At this stage, council is unable to do anything as of it as they are not breaking any local government laws."
Alan Anderson, owner of Ace Drapers leased the space to the food trucks and did not wish to comment on the issue.