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The much-loved Kinfolk cafe has closed its doors after more than 10 years, the latest casualty among Melbourne’s charitable businesses as the pandemic cuts a swath through the city’s social enterprises.
The renowned Charcoal Lane restaurant in Fitzroy will stop trading in September and the popular Lentil as Anything chain says it is in serious trouble.
Andrew Mellody from Co-Ground and Jarrod Briffa from Kinfolk .Credit:Jason South
Other social enterprises – charities that support good causes through commercial activities or who train and employ marginalised people – say they are struggling to stay afloat despite having access to the same level of state and federal government support available to their for-profit counterparts.
The sector’s peak body says the pain of the closure of a social enterprise is felt acutely, with many workers employed in the not-for-profit sector struggling to get into the mainstream job market.
The Kinfolk venture began at the cafe on Bourke Street’s Donkey Wheel House in 2010, giving marginalised people a route into the workforce and has grown into a multi-faceted enterprise, with another cafe, training and food relief operations.
Co-founder and chief executive Jarrod Briffa told The Age that the decision to close the Bourke Street venue where it all began for the enterprise had been sad, but inevitable after 17 months of disruption.
“We got to the point where we couldn’t keep supporting it,” Mr Briffa said.
Mr Briffa said Kinfolk would continue its work with the other parts of the enterprise still functioning, and he believed that it would survive into expected economic recovery in 2022.
“It’s difficult to grasp the knock-on effects of when organisations like our social enterprises are forced to close the doors,” he said.
“We’re a cafe and catering business first and foremost, but it’s a lot more than that for the communities we are supporting and the volunteers who are coming through and who we’re training.”
Mike McKinstry, chief executive of peak body and certification agency Social Traders, said the sector had been growing before the pandemic, boosted by state government social procurement efforts, but many not-for-profits were now struggling.
“The Victorian government has been very, very supportive of trying to support the sector,” Mr McKinstry said.
“But…we’re beginning to find that some of these enterprises are beginning to struggle financially…they’re just saying we’re just struggling to keep going.”
Co-Ground is a Melbourne events and catering non-profit that supports health and education and training projects both in the Asia Pacific region and closer to home for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.
Chief executive Andrew Mellody says Co-Ground is another social enterprise that has been hit hard by the pandemic, but he believes the venture can get to the other side.
“Because we work in events and hospitality, during lockdown our business just flatlines, which makes it…a very difficult and challenging time for us,” Mr Mellody said.
“We are confident, but it is incredibly hard to see social enterprises that we know and love having to close their doors permanently.”
A spokesman for the state’s Industry Recovery Minister Martin Pakula encouraged not-for-profits struggling through the pandemic to access the grants available from the government.
“The Small Business COVID Hardship Fund has been created to help businesses that have fallen between the cracks for support and are experiencing severe impacts due to the pandemic,” the spokesman said.
“We encourage social enterprises to investigate their eligibility. Grants of $14,000 are available and we will process applications as quickly as we can.”
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