Canberra hospitality businesses which are both tenants and commercial property owners are urging the ACT government for immediate rate relief to save jobs and prevent firms from imminent bankruptcy.
The Parkinson family, which padlocked the doors to its popular Hopscotch bar in Braddon on Monday, and the Trimboli family, which is attempting to re-invent its once-thriving Italian and Sons eatery as a take-out, are calling for the ACT government to share some of their financial pain.
"We know Andrew Barr is a huge supporter of the Canberra hospitality industry," Joe Trimboli said.
"But we're now entering uncharted waters and most people in the industry don't have the cash reserves to ride this crisis out.
"Now is the time for Mr Barr to give us the financial break we need to keep going."
Pubs, bars and registered clubs are shut from Monday as part of the ACT government's public health edict to protect the public and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery.
Aside from running the Hopscotch bar in Braddon - a property she currently leases from Canberra businessman Michael Smith - Kate Parkinson and her family own a significant city commercial property with five major tenants.
She said she felt sick as they stacked the furniture and closed down her business on Monday.
"People like Joe and I feel the pressure of this both ways; it's a double-whammy," Ms Parkinson said.
"I've had to shut my bar down completely because of the health crisis and I have to still have to pay rent to Michael [Smith], and at the same time I have my city tenants coming to me saying they are struggling to meet the rent, asking what can I do to help.
"Commercial landlords are carrying a high level of risk in this crisis environment. It is in our best interests to keep tenants in business.
"If Mr Barr gave us a three month moratorium on our rates, I would gladly pass that on directly to my tenants and I know Michael and Joe would do the same.
"And that could be the difference between a lot of small businesses in Canberra surviving this crisis or going under."
Joe Trimboli, who is in the hospitality industry with his brothers Dominic, Pasquale and Vince and whose Mezzalira restaurant in Civic is a Canberra dining institution, said there were misconceptions about the big profits to be made in the industry.
"This is a tough and competitive business; Canberra rents are high and overheads are high, and you have to pay well to keep good people," he said.
"The awful thing now is we have had to scale back completely, cut our staff way back which is very painful, and yet I still don't know whether that will be enough for us to make it out the other end of this."
Mr Smith, who owns significant commercial properties in Braddon said that he paid well over $300,000 in rates last year, excluding supplements aimed at supporting special events and beautifying the precinct.
"There are certainly no events going to be held in Braddon now for quite some time," he said.
"This is a chance for Mr Barr to take a lead, ahead of the other states and territories, and really do something to give back to local businesses."
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