Victoria’s plans for helping hospitality venues survive

By Andy Young and Vanessa Cavasinni, Editor of Australian Hotelier

The Victorian Government has announced an investment of over $3 billion to fund a range of support measures to help businesses impacted by the state’s lockdown and to aid preparation for “COVID Normal” business.

In total the Adaptation Package includes $3bn in cash grants, tax relief and cashflow support to be delivered to Victorian businesses that have been most affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions. The Government said the package will help businesses survive and keep Victorians in jobs.

Included in the overall package is $251m for the Licensed Hospitality Business Fund. This will see grants of between $10,000 and $30,000 for licensed pubs, clubs, hotels, bars, restaurants and reception centres, based on their venue capacity and location. Liquor licence fees for 2021 will also be waived.

The package also includes $1.7bn to defer payroll tax, which will allow around 75,000 eligible businesses with payrolls up to $10m to receive grants of $10,000, $15,000 or $20,000 depending on their size.

Premier Daniel Andrews said: “For our state to recover, we need our businesses to recover too. As we take our first safe and steady steps towards COVID Normal, this support will help make sure we get through this together.

“We’ll continue meeting with and listening to businesses, so we can do everything we can to support them and their workers.”

AHA (Vic) has welcomed the new support grants, while still urging the government to reconsider the new structure it has set up to re-open venues.

“We particularly welcome the cash grants to hotels and pubs of up to $30,000 per venue and the waiving of next year’s liquor licence fees,” said David Canny, president of AHA (Vic).

“We have been closed since March, so this is a most welcomed assistance package. The government is recognising our plight, but we call on them to rethink their roadmap to recovery.”

Canny suggested that many venues are already at a critical stage of debt, and that even with assistance the steps to re-opening might still take too long before many pub businesses are no longer viable.

“Many of our pubs and hotels are facing financial ruin – a debt cliff – through the disproportionate effects of the government’s Stage 4 restrictions. Their debt burden is rising daily and for many this is becoming unsustainable.

“We need to be allowed to reopen. There needs to be trade-offs between lives affected and livelihoods lost. We have strong and proven plans for our industry to be COVID-Safe to operate and are ready to sit with government to allow us to implement them.”

Canny also urged the Andrews Government to allow regional and rural venues to re-open, as many are more than 100km away from an active COVID case.

Looking beyond lockdown, the Government said will invest $44m to equip businesses with the support they need to thrive under a COVID Normal. This includes $20m for small businesses to access off-the-shelf digital programs such as Shopify or Squareonline, training and workshops designed to help businesses adapt to online operations.

Minister for Industry Support and Recovery Martin Pakula, said: “We’re helping business to endure during these difficult times, and then to rebuild on the other side. This package comes on the back of extensive consultation with businesses in every sector.”

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