Johnny Vakalis has owned Journal Cafe on Flinders Lane for the last 16 years. Way before millennials were mashing their avo and feta onto artisan sourdough you could pop in there for some sliced avocado on toast with a wedge of lemon on the side.
Johnny’s a well-known face of Melbourne CBD cafe scene and we checked in to see how he’s going and what he’s experiencing in the city going at the moment. It’s very hard.
1. What has been the biggest challenge for your business in adapting again in the second lockdown?
The biggest challenge was motivation, in relation to myself and staff. I felt that I need to be doing more for the business, however, I also felt drained of hope .
2. How is the mood in the CBD about opening up again and the city in the long-term?
The mood is very eerie, I’m hearing the same message from local traders every day.
“Why isn’t the council coming down to find out what’s happening?”
“Why is it taking so long to get the grants from the government?”
These are questions being asked. The other issue I had was getting pestered by the council for having an A-frame board out. There are no people in the city and I’m struggling to make any money.
Mind you I sent an application before the first lockdown and they said they lost it.
Surely, they could be a little forgiving in these situations??
3. How are you, your family and your team?
Personally, I’m struggling with mental issues, doubting my thoughts. I’m feeling I should be doing more for the business, motivating staff etc .
My family, like everyone else, I’m sure we are all going through the same thing. Luckily my wife is still working from home , two of my sons are tradies and one is studying so they are ok.
My staff, they seem to be ok.
Apart from that we are trying to introduce new groceries items, jams, frozen meals, pasta etc to stimulate some income from our customers who live in the city.
To finish off, what scares me the most is the uncertainty and the scars that will be left in the city.