Brisbane brothel in crisis as virus sends trade limp
A brothel has seen it's client numbers drop by nearly 40 percent since Monday as the COVID-19 crisis grips the nation.
Licensee of Yeerongpilly's The Viper Room Joan Leeds said the change in the flow of trade was swift.
"Up until last week, I'd have to say that we were doing very well," she said.
"And then after all the announcements on the weekend, our turnover dropped this week."
In addition to the downturn in trade, Ms Leeds - who is also a former registered nurse - said she had been forced to turn away employees.
"I've had to exclude any lady who's showing any signs of not being well. Even if they say 'I'm not feeling well' or they have a sniffly nose, we just say don't come to work - and of course that limits your roster," she said.
"Today I've only got three ladies here, but I can't take the risk of putting anyone on who's likely to bring an infection into the premises."
Ms Leeds said the cleaning regime at The Viper Room had always been extensive, but even more precautions had been taken due to the coronavirus threat.
"We have hand sanitiser as you walk in the door. We are doing as we normally do anyway - disinfecting all the touchable surfaces every day. But we're being particularly careful making sure all the door handles and everything is disinfected," she said.
"As an ex-registered nurse, I've always been really neurotic about the hygiene, so you've probably got less chance of getting an infection in here than anywhere because every room is turned over after every booking."
"Our showers and basins are bleached straight after the client leaves. We use disinfectant wipes to wipe down any surface that anybody might be touching, and we're making sure that for the ladies themselves if there's even a hint of a problem, they're not allowed on roster."
Ms Leeds said the business had only this year fully recovered from the floods, and both clients and staff were anxious about what the future might hold.
"It's a very personal service as you can imagine, but a lot of people depend on us for their living. I've got over 50 ladies who work here normally and for a lot of them, it's their only source of income," she said.
"So you've got to be conscious that if I just shut the doors, how long is it going to be? Who's going to pay my rent and my staff?"
"I've got enough cash flow to keep me going for the next couple of months but after that, where do I sit? I've got to try and work it as best I can to make sure that everybody gets paid and is well."
Staff have already been affected by a lack of disposable income in the community, and job losses across many industries would only make that worse, Ms Leeds said.
"The girls are very worried that they're not going to have work. Even the ones that are working, their income has dropped substantially because so many people are now out of work and losing hours that they don't have disposable income - and this is a luxury purchase for a lot of people."
"We've been feeling it for a couple of weeks. The girls have said they've not been able to sell extra services because of it, but now I think a bit of fear has crept in in relation to health."
"Our numbers are down probably 40 percent but our turnover is down 30 percent," she said.
"At the same time, people need touch, especially for our older and disabled clients. We have a lot of older clients and they're the ones who want us to stay here because sometimes, we're the only human contact they have."