Financial support critical for Melbourne businesses

The City of Melbourne is calling for government support for traders and a range of incentives to boost city visitation, with new data showing three in four businesses are struggling to survive the current Omicron outbreak.

Councillors will on Tuesday consider lobbying the State and Federal governments to implement measures that will mitigate the impacts of Omicron, including:

  • a third serving of the successful Melbourne Money scheme, which has injected $60 million into city cafes, bars and restaurants
  • an additional round of hotel vouchers to support stays in the CBD
  • free public transport for major events such as Moomba, which will return to the city in March
  • the removal of the work from home advice, and a return of public servants to the CBD, as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said a recent survey by Council found business confidence is declining, particularly among the city’s hospitality and retail sector. 

“We know Melbourne’s business owners are incredibly resilient, but the Omicron outbreak is having a significant impact as people isolate or understandably take it upon themselves to limit their movements,” the Lord Mayor said.

“It’s clear the economic impacts of the Omicron variant are similar to those felt during lockdowns, however our business owners aren’t currently receiving financial support.

“Through speaking with traders and seeing the raw data, we know our Melbourne Money schemes have been incredibly successful in bringing people back to the city and back into businesses after lockdowns. We want to replicate that success with a third serving.

“We have several high-profile events on the horizon – Melbourne Fashion Festival, the Formula 1 Grand Prix, The Comedy Festival – and we need to make sure our businesses are still standing when the hundreds of thousands of patrons of these events pour into the city.

“We need the State and Federal governments to urgently introduce initiatives and commit to ensure Melbourne businesses can weather the impacts of COVID-19, as we live with the virus in our community.

“We’ve seen how successful partnerships with the Victorian Government have boosted our recovery over the past two years. Let’s bring back our greatest hits to support city traders in this new operating environment.”

The survey also found 74 per cent of city business owners are barely surviving or are under intense distress, while 53 per cent aren’t confident they can remain open for more than three months.

City Activation portfolio lead Councillor Roshena Campbell said it was time for the State Government to take the lead in returning workers to the CBD.

“As the largest single employer of workers in the city, the State Government must show leadership by bringing public servants back as soon as it’s safe,” Cr Campbell said.

The City of Melbourne has implemented a range of initiatives to reignite the city in less transmissible settings. This has included New Year’s Eve celebration zones and Street Feasts, and spectacular nightly drone shows in Docklands – which have seen foot traffic reach up to 138 per cent of pre-COVID levels.

Council is also rolling out programs to revitalise laneways with art and music, breathe new life into empty shopfronts, and pop-up activations to bring vibrancy to city precincts.

/Public Release. View in full here.