The ‘Melbourne Money’ $8.4 million initiative between the City of Melbourne Local Government Area and the Victorian Government has been scrutinised for its timing and lack of long-term foresight.

The scheme started on 11 June, the first day of eased restrictions in greater Melbourne after its fourth lockdown, and is predicted to inject more than $40m back into venues around the Melbourne CBD.

However, Iain Ling, publican of Calton venue The Lincoln told Australian Hotelier the funding would be better invested at a later date because venues still face strict capacity restrictions.

“It was announced before the lockdown was lifted and I can’t figure out what the end goal was, why not wait until venues have full capacity and can make the most of the scheme?” Ling said.

“It appeared like it was something they felt they had to do, we’re finding that some people know about it, or have never heard of it. It could have been done far better.”

The ‘Melbourne Money’ initiative allows diners at restaurants, cafes and bars to be eligible for a 20 per cent rebate on their transactions when they spend between $50 and $500. It is being run on a first-in-first-served basis and will continue until funds are exhausted.

Ling spoke to Australian Hotelier during the fourth lockdown after the original announcement of the scheme and expressed his concern for the lack of long-term consideration.

“Any government funding and help is always welcomed and it’s a good thing to hear about the initiative,” he said.

“However, my big worry though is if it’s just going to be a band-aid effect given it is a first-come-first-served program. We already have our staff working as much as they are able to, so if we get really busy for a week or two and need to consider taking on more staff, can I look them in the eye and promise them they’ll have work in a month, or six months or a year?

“We need an initiative that helps us get the repeat customers and take on more long-term staff. We will just have to wait to see what other details are released in the coming days and hope it’s not just a feel good thing and has a medium to long-term solution.”

City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said her focus is to encourage as many locals and visitors back into the CBD after a difficult lockdown period.

“‘Melbourne Money’ is a great deal for locals and visitors but it is providing critical support to so many businesses in the hospitality industry that have endured the worst trading conditions in living memory,” Capp said.

“This $8.4m investment in the program will deliver about $40m in spending across the City of Melbourne’s hospitality providers.”

The rebate will be available in Southbank, Chinatown, Lygon Street, Docklands, North Melbourne, Carlton and Kensington and at hospitality venues within sporting, arts and theatre precincts in the City of Melbourne area.

To claim the rebate consumers will need to pay for their meal in full and take a photo of the itemised receipt and upload it along with their bank details via the ‘Melbourne Money’ website. The 20 per cent will be credited back to the nominated bank account within five business days.

City activation portfolio lead, councillor Roshena Campbell, said the process was designed to be easy for businesses to participate.

“Our research shows that Melbourne’s vibrant hospitality scene was one of the top reasons people visited the city prior to COVID-19 so it’s critical we invest in programs to revive this key industry,” Campbell said.

“We’ve designed ‘Melbourne Money’ to be simple and easy for businesses to be involved and benefit. Every extra dollar that is spent at a hospitality business in our city helps to keep Melburnians in jobs.

“Hospitality businesses in the municipality will be automatically eligible and the City of Melbourne will take care of administering the program with a specialist provider to make it simple to use.”

Ling said so far patrons have been appreciative when staff educate them about the scheme, helping them suggestive sell premium products as a result.

“Our main idea so far has been 20 per cent extra instead of 20 per cent off. We are encouraging customers who have come out of lockdown to try a nicer bottle of wine so they can take full advantage of the scheme,” Ling said.

“All we can do from there is make sure every patron has a receipt and knows about the rebate, which some have been very grateful for and have said it has really added to their day.”

Photo: The Lincoln/Facebook.

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