Experts discuss the keys to revitalising NSW hospitality

The NSW Government’s $66million Alfresco Restart initiative rolls out next week, which it hopes will help Sydney and its hospitality industry recover from lockdowns.

NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes announced details of the initiative earlier this month. It includes:

  • The Festival of Place – including the Long Summer Nights Program at the Rocks, Darling Harbour and The Domain, Streets as Shared Spaces Program, Summer Night Fund Program and Open Streets Program;
  • Emergency temporary alfresco measures for outdoor dining in parks or on private land with the owner’s consent; and
  • $5000 grants for hospitality businesses to establish new alfresco settings;
  • Permanent outdoor dining as an exempt development for pubs and small bars state-wide.

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“After many months in lockdown, the people of NSW are ready to enjoy themselves, so we’ve thrown out the rule book with new temporary alfresco measures, while also making last year’s trials permanent,” Stokes said.  

“In addition to the permanent easing of rules for dining on footpaths and public spaces, we’re temporarily allowing outdoor dining on privately-owned bowling greens and carparks, meaning businesses can expand outdoors on almost any piece of land they own to welcome more customers.” 

Additional financial support measures for small to medium businesses include the Summer Holiday Stock Guarantee grant, which sees eligible businesses with a turnover rate between $75,000 and $50 million able to apply for a grant of up to $20,000 to compensate for loss of perishable stock or claim $10,000 for reduced capacity to sell non-perishable items in the event of a local lockdown.

Small businesses will also be able to claim road user tolls under the Small Business Fees and Charges rebate, which has been increased from $1500 to $2000.

Plus, an additional two Dine & Discover vouchers will be offered to people across NSW. The government is extending the program to provide one additional $25 voucher for eating out, and another $25 voucher for recreation and entertainment.

Business Sydney shares its vision

The new Executive Director of Business Sydney, Paul Nicolaou, shared his organisation’s 10-point recovery plan earlier this month.

“Sydney’s CBD was the beating heart of the state’s economy and we need to restart it with a strong return to offices, hospitality, arts and cultural venues to bring the city back to its vibrant best and show the world that Sydney is the pre-eminent city in our region to work, visit and play,” he said.

“State and local government need to support and work with business to generate economic growth and employment in Sydney’s CBD in order to capitalise on the opportunity we now have through our hard work in leading the nation in vaccination and reopening.”

“Federal and State governments are working to open borders to international visitors as early as next month and we need the city to be pumping again to attract tourists and international workers to our great global city.”

The Business Sydney 10-point plan suggests:

  1. Appointing a special Minister for Sydney to coordinate the city’s recovery.
  2. Free public transport from 6-7am and 6-7pm for six months.
  3. Removal of the FBT on lunches for 12 months.
  4. Waiving of fees/restrictions for pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants for al-fresco dining on footpaths and extending outdoor footprints to include car parks & open spaces.
  5. Removal of the parking space levy for 6 months.
  6. Establishing a “Reopen Sydney Fund”, to support small businesses with operating costs.
  7. Run a “Shop & Dine Sydney” promotional campaign including accommodation vouchers and an extension of the ‘Dine & Discover’ vouchers until June 2022.
  8. Allow later night trading in the CBD for 12 months.
  9. A coordinated live events and street activation program.
  10. Create a road map for return of the cruise and business events industries.

“This is also a great opportunity to create a 24-hour economy in our city that drives the hospitality and tourism sectors, something other global cities like London and New York, have been doing for years,” said Nicolaou.

Solving the hospitality staffing crisis

Roy McCullagh, CEO of hospitality recruitment agency Skills Connect International, said he would also like to see a summer of free public transport to encourage everyone to go out and spend and for staff to travel further for work. He also feels extending the times when free transport is available in the mornings to 8am would be a great move.

McCullagh (above) recently told Drinks Digest that staff shortages faced by the hospitality industry have created an unenviable situation for operators. The bargaining and negotiating power is now largely in the hands of the candidates, who have a greater choice of roles and are competing in a smaller applicant pool.

He suggests:

  • Interest-free loans to venues to provide working capital for the industry to restart
  • Accelerated GST refunds, with a commitment to a 10-day turnaround
  • Free legal advice and support to enable operators to liaise with landlords in regards to rent freezes or reductions

Additionally, Skills Connect International has launched a fee-free offer to help businesses get back on their feet. The company isn’t charging any fees or commissions to supply first candidates.

“Right now we just want to help venues open and help lots of people get back to work and get their confidence back,” McCullagh explained.

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Categories: Business