Manly Business Chamber and the many businesses they represent claim they are fed up with waiting for the $3,000 and $5,000 hardship grants promised on 4 February.
The grants were announced to much fanfare on 4 February, with Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Small Business Minister Damien Tudehope joining local MPs and Manly Chamber president Charlotte Rimmer at a press conference in Manly’s Rialto Square.
The grants were intended to help struggling Northern Beaches businesses meet hard costs associated with forced closures thanks to the local outbreak of COVID-19 over the Christmas holiday period.
“I was put forward at that press conference to share how pleased I was about these grants. I put my name to this and the fact that there has been no communication since that day is not good enough,” Ms Rimmer said. “That’s why we are chasing this daily.”
“We are approaching 60 days payment terms, to put things in business speak, so it’s time the state government pays up.”
Manly Observer was told by those Minister’s departments that the delay rested with Service NSW, ergo Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello. We were told by one source there has been some issue with the application forms, but also advised it simply took a backseat to the Dine & Discover work.
We asked for information on this from Mr Dominello’s office, a spokesman replied, “The new grants program is being finalised and will open for applications shortly. The community will be kept informed on progress.”
“But that’s just the problem, the community hasn’t been kept informed of the progress,” Ms Rimmer said. “We have businesses who urgently need this help. They may not be able to last much longer to even make use of the Dine & Discover program. These are hardship grants, hardship. We are fully appreciative they are being offered, but we now need them to be delivered.”
Minister Dominello’s spokesman said the government understood “just how tough it has been for Northern Beaches businesses. This is why we included the region in the second phase of the Dine & Discover NSW pilot.”
The grants are particularly needed by businesses who can not use the Dine & Discover program, such as Corso mainstay Manly Ocean Foods. Co-owner Christina Franze said she was told her business was ineligible because it is listed as a takeaway venue rather than a restaurant or bar.
“Who cares if it’s takeaway, it’s still a struggling business,” Ms Rimmer asserted, adding that she had been discussing the issue with Manly MP James Griffin to see if the program could be expanded.
It was also noted that no special federal support had been offered.
No cash til April
A statement from James Griffin’s office this afternoon recommended businesses “start getting their applications and supporting information ready from Monday” as Service NSW looks to launch a “pre-registration page for the grants program.”
“This means money can be out the door and into local business accounts as soon as the grants open in April,” the statement read.
Businesses are encouraged to sign up to the Service NSW Business Portal to receive information and regular updates on support measures available to them https://mybusiness.service.nsw.gov.au/.
‘We need council support to continue’
The Chamber president said Northern Beaches Council’s business concierge service had been a helpful support and efforts to improve outdoor dining and reduce or remove fees had been an important lifeline for food and beverage industries since the lockdowns. “We hope this support continues and will be seeking further commitment for improved infrastructure, including support for the Chamber itself,” she said.
Owner of several Manly-based businesses (Cumberland, Donny’s and In-Situ), Matt Clifton, said he hoped Northern Beaches Council would continue its efforts to support local businesses, including its “more relaxed and flexible approach” to outdoor dining and an extension on waived outdoor dining fees.
“We’ve achieved more with outdoor dining in the last few months than I have been able to achieve in nine years,” he said. “I really hope this progressive approach can continue and businesses aren’t instead asked to pull back into their boxes,” he said.
Clifton is behind the popular ‘pop up’ Market Lane Live which he is hoping can become a more permanent fixture. “And the way other businesses have been able to sprawl out a little, like Market Lane Café moving out toward the library, it’s been fantastic, it’s created a great atmosphere and been a really attractive space for locals to go,” he said.
Half a million spent in Dine & Discover vouchers so far
From the pilot launch of Dine & Discover in February to the 18 March, $565,485 has been spent in local businesses, Manly MP James Griffin and Premier Gladys Berejiklian revealed today. There were 426 local businesses registered with the scheme.
“Of the pilot areas, we have had the largest number of businesses signing up to the program and benefiting directly from the NSW Government scheme in response to the COVID-19 economic stresses,” Mr Griffin said.
“With the Federal Government Job Keeper program winding up soon, and the possible Northern Beaches Council rate changes impacting local businesses, it is pleasing to see over half a million dollars going from the State Government directly to local businesses via the Dine and Discover Program, and we’ve only just started” he said, referring to the state-imposed rates harmonisation process Northern Beaches Council will soon introduce, increasing Manly’s rates extensively.
“It is up to businesses now to double down on this success and start advertising to customers across Sydney, who are just now receiving their vouchers, to come spend them in Manly where there is the greatest opportunity.”
Local Government Areas now able to access their Dine and Discover Vouchers can be found here.