Traders plead for ‘drastic’ help

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TRADE is down, visitor numbers are down and revenue is down.

With this nightmare scenario now a stark reality, Mornington Chamber of Commerce is pleading with all levels of government, financial institutions and landlords to “treat business tenants compassionately and urgently with respect to the current financial hardships caused by COVID-19”.

It also wants government, financial institutions and local councils to freeze their landlords’ mortgages and municipal rates to help their tenants keep small business operating.

Describing itself as the “key voice and advocate for local businesses” on the Mornington strip, the chamber wrote: “Main Street has been one of the strongest performing retail strips in Victoria, [but] it is not immune to the current economic crisis exacerbated by [the virus].

“Similar to other retail strips throughout Melbourne, retailers won’t make it past three months, given they are now having to shut their doors, unless they receive drastic help.”

The chamber has received support from the mayor, Cr Sam Hearn, who also runs a cafe. He said he had been speaking to small business owners “on a daily basis over the past two weeks”.

“We understand the situation they are in and [the shire’s] finance and economic development teams are working on different options,” he said.

The chamber said tenants needed their landlords’ help so they are in a position to go back to “business as usual” once the pandemic abates. “These are extraordinary circumstances that require empathy as well as tangible assistance for small business as it may last many months,” the chamber stated.

“[Most] businesses in Main Street are independent and family owned and, once a small business closes, it is almost impossible financially for them to re-open or recover.

“While tenants will be doing their best to continue through these hard times, whether it be by seeking to claim government assistance packages, re-negotiating utility charges and rethinking their business model by including new services and practices, one of the biggest impacts will be on a business owner’s ability to retain and pay their staff.”

The chamber said it understood the pressures and impacts were “felt by everyone: tenants and landlords alike”.

“We ask that landlords reach out to their tenants either directly or through their managing agents to advise them of their individual position and any assistance they may be able to provide.”

Cr Hearn said his “heart” was with local business people. “My cafe is on the edge, too,” he said. “I feel their pain”.

See also “Crisis backing for business

First published in the Mornington News – 31 March 2020

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