As the Victorian Government has recently announced, there are some changes to come in Melbourne’s COVID-19 roadmap to recovery and we’re all very eager to see what Sunday’s press conference will bring. It’s hard to know exactly what’s coming but we can say with some confidence that hospitality and retail will be opening back up, to some degree, in the near future.
The new rules and regulations we know will accompany our future COVID-19 ‘normal’ lives are forcing businesses to make big changes swiftly.
So we thought we would reach out with some advice for hospitality and retail business owners on the key issues to consider now to make sure you’re ready to open the doors.
Read what our expert advisors have to say on the following considerations for awakening your business from a long COVID hibernation:
- Staff & workplace considerations
- Leasing & licensing
- Cash flow
Staff and Workplace Considerations
Opening your business back up to the public will require you to direct employees to return to the workplace, either under their usual employment conditions or under new conditions as agreed with your employees in compliance with the Fair Work Act.
If an employee has been given a JobKeeper enabling stand-down direction, you may now be in a position to lift that direction or replace it with different stand-down arrangements, depending on your staffing requirements.
You’ll also need to comply with any new work health and safety regulations, including the development and implementation of a COVIDSafe Plan. Every business in Victoria that has people working on-site or customers attending any premises must have a COVIDSafe Plan in place. Many organisations are offering consultation services to assist with the development of COVIDSafe Plans as well as training (sometimes free!) on COVIDSafe practices.
As an employer, it’s really important that you’re across these legalities to protect yourself, your staff and your business. You can read more about employer obligations on our blog, or reach out to the BlueRock Law team for advice on your workplace circumstances.
Leasing and Licensing
As Melbourne prepares for an alfresco summer, restaurants, bars and other hospitality venues will need to review and address their existing leasing and licensing agreements.
Many tenants have already been in negotiations with landlords on rent relief as a result of lockdowns and changes to the COVID-19 commercial tenancy relief schemes. As business opens back up, this may prompt further discussions, so make sure you’re well across the the COVID-19 commercial tenancy relief scheme and the Covid-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) (Commercial Leases and Licences) Miscellaneous Regulations 2020 (Vic), which were recently amended.
Outdoor dining also prompts new obligations when it comes to existing or new liquor licenses. The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation has introduced a streamlined approach to help existing licensees temporarily use public outdoor areas to supply liquor.
Businesses with existing licenses will first need written permission from your local council to use public external/outdoor areas that are not currently authorised under your existing permanent liquor licence.
If you have council permission to use the outdoor area, and you then apply for a temporary limited licence (outdoor area temp licence) you will hopefully get a licence issued to you that allows you to supply liquor in the outdoor area. Note that there is no fee associated with applying for an outdoor area temp licence in relation to a public outdoor area.
Businesses that are changing the way their premises are being used may also need to get landlord approval.
Right now is an important time to explore your insurance policies. Have you purchased new assets to take advantage of the Federal Government’s attractive instant asset write-off incentive? With recent changes increasing the threshold and the eligibility, more businesses are investing in equipment, so it’s essential that you are properly insured.
If there have been changes to your workplace or staffing arrangements, you might also like to consider an insurance health check on your new operating space. Our BlueRock General Insurance team is great at reviewing your policies to make sure you’re properly covered and are paying the right premiums, hopefully improving cash flow at the same time!
Feel free to get in touch with the General Insurance team for an obligation-free review.
Cash flow is tough for many businesses at the moment. There’s no magic 8 ball that will accurately forecast cash flow issues that might arise, but there's a lot you can do to create efficiencies and remove that feeling of uncertainty. Read about our 4-step financial forecasting process, which should help you to navigate the ups and downs of the current environment.
Here are a few other cash considerations as you come out of lockdown:
- Will you be dealing with cash or only accepting EFTPOS payments?
- Will you be paying wages using the same payroll cycle as before and are your staff JobKeeper eligible?
- Have you proactively communicated any cash flow issues to suppliers before you open?
Feel free to get in touch with our BlueRock Accounting advisors to talk through cash flow strategies that might help your business through the next few months.
Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme
To assist your cash flow position, you might also consider taking advantage of the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme. The banks have now established credit policy and lending criteria for the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme 2.0, with some major changes as follows:
The available loan purposes have been expanded from just working capital purposes to include the following:
- Access to working capital
- Capital expenditure
- Business acquisition
- Commercial property purchase (owner-occupied only)
- Refinance of 1.0 $250K Government Scheme business loans
Changes to the loan facility:
- Loan amount has increased from $250K to $1M
- Loan term has increased from 3 years to 5 years with no repayments required for the first 6 months
- 50% of the funding ($500K max) will be supported by the government
- The 2.0 facility can be either Secured or Unsecured with the following security options:
- Director Guarantee
- General Security Agreement
- Corporate Guarantee
- Commercial Property
If you have already taken out finance through the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme 1.0, we would recommend you review your facility to ensure you’re taking advantage of the updates.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme 2.0, please feel free to reach out to the BlueRock Finance team for advice.
If there’s one thing that the governments have come to the table on since COVID hit our shores, it’s grants and incentives. Are you across all the grants that are available to you as an Australian business?
If your business happens to be in hospitality, retail, accommodation, tourism, hair and beauty, repairs, maintenance, domestic cleaning, outdoor entertainment, or passenger vehicles, then it’s likely that you’re eligible for some of these grants:
- Sole Traders $3,000 Victorian Government Grant
- Business Support Grant (funding of up to $20,000)
- Grants between $10,000 and $30,000 are available as part of the Licenced Venue Funds
- Digital transformation grants to adapt to the online environment
If you would like to find out more about your eligibility, please get in touch with our BlueRock advisory team.
Advertising and Communications
Have you been nurturing your customers through the lockdown period, so they know where your business is at and when you’re planning to open up again (as much as we can plan!)?
So many changes to the way you run your business might leave your customers confused, so it’s important to keep up the comms on your new hours and COVID-related requirements, such as the fact that self-help water stations will no longer be available or that they now need to make a booking where they might not previously have needed to.
Or perhaps your booking policy needs revisiting? If you’re a hairdresser or tattoo artist, for example, you’ll be tempted to open the floodgates but you’ll need to carefully manage and communicate your new booking and cancellation policy as a result of restrictions or new hours.
A strong multi-channel content strategy will ensue you’re hitting your audience with the right message at the right time. Australians are keen to support local businesses but we need to make it easy for them. Social media is your best bet here, so make sure you're active on Instagram and Facebook.
To talk through the best marketing and communications strategy for your business, please get in touch with our BlueRock Digital team, who can run through the best approach for you.
It’s exciting to think that life will start to return to normal over the coming weeks, and that we can all get back to our beloved hospitality venues and retail spaces. We wish you all the best as you awaken from hibernation and look forward to visiting you soon!