City of Melbourne urges government support as Omicron hurts trade

City of Melbourne urges government support as Omicron hurts trade

The City of Melbourne is calling for a new round of government support for traders and incentives to boost visitation after a recent survey by the council found three in four businesses are struggling to survive the current Omicron outbreak.

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.

Councillors will meet on Tuesday to consider lobbying the state and federal governments to implement measures that will mitigate the impacts of Omicron on businesses, 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 says the survey indicates 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,” she says.

"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.”

The first course of the Melbourne money scheme was introduced in May 2021, and allowed diners to claim 20 per cent off their bill when spending $50 or more at all restaurants, cafes and bars across Melbourne’s CBD.

A second round was initiated in November, with the rebate boosted to 30 per cent if diners came in to spend between Monday and Thursday.

“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,” Capp says.

Updated at 11:26am AEDT on 28 January 2022.

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