Milk and Wine Co, Melbourne owners issue urgent plea for help

Owners of Milk and Wine Co, Melbourne issue 'plea for help'  Business accumulated debt during Covid lockdowns Milk and Wine Co offers discount essential services   It also runs a Pay it Forward for struggling Aussies  READ MORE: Bistrot 916 to close its doors 

The owners of a popular cafe have made a desperate plea to customers for donations in a last-ditch bid to keep the doors open after being denied government support.

Samantha Hitt and Beth Hancock opened Milk and Wine Co, at Heathmont in Melbourne's east, as the Covid pandemic was ramping up in March 2020.

The family-run business quickly became an important part of the local community by offering discounts to essential services workers and 'pay it forward' menu items.

However, Ms Hitt told Daily Mail Australia she and Ms Hancock have now had to make the difficult decision to ask public donations to keep the cafe's doors open.

She said Milk and Wine Co opened on the first day of lockdowns in Melbourne, where residents endured a total of 262 days under stay-at-home orders.

Family-run Milk and Wine Co, located in Heathmont, east of Melbourne 's CBD, opened in March 2020 and quickly became a favourite among locals

Family-run Milk and Wine Co, located in Heathmont, east of Melbourne 's CBD, opened in March 2020 and quickly became a favourite among locals

Owners Beth Hancock and Samantha Hitt have made the a desperate plea to the community for financial support to help keep their doors open

Owners Beth Hancock and Samantha Hitt have made the a desperate plea to the community for financial support to help keep their doors open

The cafe was considered a 'new business' and therefore did not qualify for any Covid-19 government assistance programs.

However, the pair accumulated a $100,000 debt as they continued to pay staff and kept the business running during the 24 months of the pandemic.

'This is a huge black cloud that has hung over us for four years and we just can't shake it off,' Ms Hitt said.

'If we're able to get rid of that, the difference we feel we can make would be so much greater. We don't want to be another hospitality statistic.'

Ms Hitt said she and Ms Hancock had done everything they can to tighten their belts, including selling cars and working more hours away from their family.

She said they reluctantly cut casual staff hours on weekends, with Ms Hitt now working seven days and Ms Hancock working six days to cover the shortfall.

However, they have reached breaking point and on Sunday shared a heartbreaking video detailing a 'plea for help' and a GoFundMe page asking for support.

'This open letter to the community is to, with incredibly heavy hearts, ask for help,' the pair wrote.

'This is to ask for help to survive. To keep our doors open. We never wanted to be in this position, but unfortunately, we find ourselves here asking for your financial assistance.

'We understand that times are hard for everyone, but this place has become more than just a business it's become a huge part of this community and huge part of our lives.

'This is the hardest thing we have had to do. We have delayed this plea as long as we can - perhaps, at this point, even too long. If this business means as much to you as it does to us, then please help us fight'.

The pair explained Milk and Wine Co accumulated a $100,000 debt during the Covid-19 pandemic as it did not qualify for any government assistance programs

The pair explained Milk and Wine Co accumulated a $100,000 debt during the Covid-19 pandemic as it did not qualify for any government assistance programs

The GoFundMe page has so far received 239 donations totalling $21,987 towards the goal of raising $100,000.

While most were supportive of the measure, some were unimpressed.

'I personally think it’s a bit rich a lot of business and households are in the same position, yet not asking for hand outs,' one Aussie said.

Ms Hitt told Daily Mail Australia she and Ms Hancock felt humiliated and were reluctant to ask for help but after receiving such an overwhelming response realised Milk and Wine Co was just as important to the community was it is to the owners.

'We've been quite shocked by the response thus far, we weren't even sure whether it was going to work,' Ms Hitt said.

'I think what we created during the last four years is why we're getting the response that we've gotten.

'[Milk and Wine Co] is too important to us. And, as I guess it turns out, important to the people around us as well.'

'Staff have offered to work extra hours to help and we've had regular customers offering to share the word and do their own videos to help us out.'

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Ms Hitt said local police officers, nurses and ambulance paramedics were regulars at Milk and Wine Co and enjoy a 50 per cent discount provided for essential services workers.

She said giving back to the community and helping those in need had become the business' 'ethos' and they would rather close than stop than stop offering the discounts and 'pay it forward' meals.

The cafe's 'pay it forward' program allows customers to buy a meal for a family in need and have it delivered to them.

'It's our ethos now, yes, like we wouldn't be ourselves if we weren't doing those things,' Ms Hitt said.

'Beth and I don't want to compromise on who we are, which is why we're doing this.

'We could compromise, and we could start charging through the roof of things and not doing these programs, not give discounts and we could get rid of our loyalty cards, but we'd rather not do the business than be something we are not.'

Ms Hitt said she and Ms Hancock would rather close the business than stop their community initiatives which include a 'pay it forward' program and discounts for essential services workers

Ms Hitt said she and Ms Hancock would rather close the business than stop their community initiatives which include a 'pay it forward' program and discounts for essential services workers

It comes as a popular burger and brunch cafe in Adelaide closed its doors for good after 'feeling the pinch' from the hospitality industry cost crunch.

Gang Gang Cafe, located on Unley Road in Parkside, an inner southern suburb of Adelaide, shut its doors for good on Sunday.

The team behind the popular cafe, which started as a pop-up truck before opening its bricks and mortar store in 2019, announced the closure on Facebook last month.

Owners Morgen and Nina Wynn-Hadinata explained it was a 'hard decision' but needed to make the right move for the business after being hit with a large rent increase.

'After five years at our beautiful Parkside location we have decided not to extend our lease due to a large hike in rent,' the pair wrote.

'We opened two months before the pandemic and are proud of what we accomplished during that time but is time for us to move on.

'We have loved every minute of our journey and the community we have built but like many we are feeling the pinch.

'We need to make the right steps for us personally and for our business at this time in the hospitality industry and that means making these hard decisions, whilst we can and moving forward with our new projects.'

Gang Gang Cafe, located on Unley Road in Parkside, an inner southern suburb of Adelaide, shut its doors for good on Sunday

Gang Gang Cafe, located on Unley Road in Parkside, an inner southern suburb of Adelaide, shut its doors for good on Sunday

Gang Gang Cafe wwners Morgen and Nina Wynn-Hadinata (pictured) said it was a 'hard decision' but needed to make the right move for the business after being hit with a large rent increase

Gang Gang Cafe wwners Morgen and Nina Wynn-Hadinata (pictured) said it was a 'hard decision' but needed to make the right move for the business after being hit with a large rent increase

The pair added there were 'exciting new projects' in Gang Gang's future and that they would continue serving burgers at their second restaurant 99 Gang Gang Social on Hindley Street.

Many prominent breweries, cafes and restaurants across shut their doors after succumbing to hospitality industry's cost crunch.

In the past three months, venues in Melbourne and Sydney collapsed into administration.

In Melbourne the closures included Carringbush Hotel in Abbotsford, Deeds Brewery, Hawkers Brewery, Rosetta, La Luna, Gingerboy and Izakaya Den, Gauge Bistro, Que Club and Italian restaurant The Olive Jar, which closed after 40 years of business.

Other prominent Sydney venue closures include Raja, Izakaya Tempura Kuon, Tetsuya’s, Tequila Daisy, Redbird Chinese, Khanaa, Cornersmith, Sushi Bay, Elements Bar and Grill and three stores from the Bondi Pizza franchise.

In May, hospitality group BCN Events Group's seven businesses including its cooking school Lumiere Culinary Studio went bust, ceasing trade immediately and affecting its 90 staff.

The Botswana Butchery chain, which had high-end steak restaurants across three cities, went into liquidation with more than $23 million in debt and sacked its 200 staff.

The popular cafe started as a pop-up truck (pictured) before opening a bricks and mortar store in 2019. The owners reassured customers that they would continue serving burgers from its second restaurant 99 Gang Gang Social on Hindley Street

The popular cafe started as a pop-up truck (pictured) before opening a bricks and mortar store in 2019. The owners reassured customers that they would continue serving burgers from its second restaurant 99 Gang Gang Social on Hindley Street

Adelaide business Big Shed Brewing and Brisbane's Ballistic Beer Company along with The Matriarch - a French-inspired venue touted as the city's most glamorous cafe - have also closed down.

Gang Gang Cafe owner Morgen Wynn-Hadinata said the business was being hit from 'all different directions'.

Rent increases, payroll taxes, cost of goods even. Everything was just inflating. It just comes from all different directions for us,' she told 7News.

Financial services and software company CreditorWatch predicted in a report published on May 21 that one in 13 hospitality businesses would fail in the next 12 months.

The report claimed businesses were at the discretion of spending customers - a demographic that had 'dried up as cost-of-living pressures mount'.

It outlined the food and beverage industry ranked first for external administrations and tax office debts of over $100,000, and also came in third for invoice payments more than 60 days overdue.

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