By CRAIG McTEAR
DOUG and Christine Munro cringe whenever the power goes out because they know they have to beat the clock.
It's a mad rush at their Cee Cee's Seafood and Takeaway at Woolgoolga to ensure food is taken out of the fridges and stored in containers under ice.
Lengthy power outages are becoming an unwelcome fact of life for angry business owners and residents on the Northern Beaches, where five outages in the past five weeks have caused all sorts of headaches.
It's an unacceptable situation according to Woolgoolga Chamber of Commerce executive member Steve Moody, who is lobbying Country Energy for a remedy (see stories Page 3).
Christine Munro says having back-up generators available for shop owners in times of crisis would certainly be a big help.
Spoiled food is not her only nightmare. When the power does eventually come back on, a lot of the motors on her compressors and freezers can't handle the sudden shock, and have to be replaced.
"Some of our outages have lasted three to five hours at a time,
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and they've been happening on a Sunday, which is one of our busiest days," she said.
Woolgoolga RSL Club secretary-manager, Glenn Buckley, says if the power outages are going to be regular, 'it should be a matter of recourse somewhere for hitting somebody up for loss of trade'.
"The outages are affecting our bar trade, our gaming trade and our restaurant trade," Mr Buckley said.
"One of our outages was on a Monday night for four or five hours, one of our busiest nights. Our trade was wiped out because we didn't have those people in the club anymore.
"I think it's a lack of infrastructure planning and maintenance that's causing these outages.
"Our electricity bill is going up astronomically, but we're not getting the service we're paying for."
Woolgoolga chartered accountant Margaret Murphy, who moved from Sydney 12 months ago, says she has never experienced so many outages.
"There have been half a dozen in the past few months," she said.
"My computer, my facsimile machine, my telephones are all reliant on electricity. I can't work without it.
"As soon as you see a black cloud, you dread that it's going to happen again.
"I used to work for Integral Energy and Energy Australia and if there was a problem, they could re-route the power quite quickly.
"For some reason, that doesn't happen here, and you're without power for hours."
However, Woolgoolga's newly-opened Five Star Supermarket has planned for such interruptions ?management installed a large back-up generator when the store was built.
"The whole idea in these situations is to maintain our business and keep running," manager Daryl Gear said.
"It was very costly, but if there is a blackout, we can operate."