Testing our resolve

Jeremy Vincent

Life is slowly but steadily returning to the Yarra River precinct, though for many businesses I dare say it could be too little too late.

We will not see the full effect of COVID-19 on our business community until the cessation of JobKeeper and the end of rent waivers or rent deferrals by landlords.

The post-Easter period will be the real test of our business resilience. The return of Southbank’s corporate workforce will be a big help, although it’s yet to be seen how many will actually return, as opposed to completing at least part of their working week from home.

The arts industry is cautiously reopening and the success of the Live at the Bowl summer program has been outstanding. Likewise, NGV is having great success with Triennial and Hamer Hall has seen the return of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

However, international business events and tourism is still a long way off. With it accounting for 30 to 40 per cent of trade in the precinct, it will leave a hole in the hospitality industry for some time yet.

On a brighter note, the changed circumstances has enabled Southbankers to better explore their neighbourhood and enjoy those facilities that have reopened.

Our “I’m a Southbanker” series each month in this paper is designed to introduce you to the people behind many of our businesses – real “flesh and blood” operators who have spent years building up their livelihood.

They might operate out of big complexes, but they are still small business people, with mouths to feed and constant bills to pay. Please continue to support them as much as you can.

This month sees the start of two campaigns that should help to persuade Greater Melburnians to leave their suburban enclaves and re-experience the city centre again, especially Southbank.

The City of Melbourne’s FOMO television campaign features imagery of the precinct very strongly. This month the Yarra River Business Association (YRBA) continues its weekly vlogging campaign to highlight outdoor eating venues, as well as starting a major campaign “The Ultimate Yarra River Staycation”, which features an amazing prize pool and will be supported through various social media outlets.

It came out of the blue, but I must congratulate Victoria Police for their support to enforce cycling speed restrictions during February and March.

We have had years of inaction regarding the speed demons of Southbank and Crown Promenades, including some fairly ineffectual public awareness and education campaigns.

We want to see the promenades used for slow, meandering cycling that doesn’t endanger people, especially as they begin to return to the precinct. Getting the balance right between a total ban on cycling and controlling the speeding commuters is very difficult.

The finish of Southbank Boulevard will at least provide them with an alternative route. It’s to be hoped that the re-landscaping of Southbank Promenade will include many cycle-slowing mechanisms in its design.

Finally, I would like to remind the many businesses operating in the precinct that for 2021 membership of the Yarra River Business Association is only $50 plus GST. This is a reduction of 75 per cent and enables everyone to get involved in the busiest marketing year we have had in our 22-year existence.

Contact the executive officer on [email protected] for membership details •  

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