Chambers join forces to help small business

Katoomba and Blackheath Chambers are working together to help Upper Mountains businesses survive the downturn in visitation since the bushfires sparked up in October.

Both chambers have called on commercial property owners to waive or reduce rents for businesses affected by the downturn, until campaigns to draw visitors back takes effect.

President of the Katoomba Chamber of Commerce and Community Mark Jarvis said: "Some property owners have already provided rent relief to commercial tenants. The fires came at the worst time for tourism obliterating the high season over Christmas that provides a buffer for the February slowdown.

Councillor Kevin Schreiber, Katoomba Chamber President Mark Jarvis, Councillor Kerry Brown, Blackheath Chamber of Commerce President George Vergotis at his Blackheath Automotive workshop.

Councillor Kevin Schreiber, Katoomba Chamber President Mark Jarvis, Councillor Kerry Brown, Blackheath Chamber of Commerce President George Vergotis at his Blackheath Automotive workshop.

"Usually, tourism picks up again in March but hotels and function centres are getting cancellations all the way to next October. People think there is nothing left of the Mountains.

"We need to get the message out that the emergency services have done an amazing job of protecting our towns and much of the immediate bushland. Our arts, culture and events continue."

Mr Jarvis, who is a co-owner of the Carrington, said that despite a 50 per centre drop in patronage, the hotel had waived the rent for two months for the businesses in the hotel and associated properties. "We'll review the situation again in March," he said.

"All commercial property owners need to understand they could close a business down by refusing to adjust the rent while businesses are suffering. This is not a time to be greedy."

President of the Blackheath Chamber of Commerce George Vergotis said that "the slowdown in the tourism driven economy has rippled out to all sectors of business. Employees of business are feeling the pain as well with massive layoffs to manage costs."

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"We are all in this together. Some very considerate Blackheath landlords have given rent relief to commercial tenants which has allowed them to retain employees and continue to trade through this challenging time."

Councillor Kerry Brown said: "Most of our local businesses are small or micro without a lot of fat on them. One of the businesses in Civic Place in Katoomba which is owned by council closed in December. More could go. Council can help make a difference."

Councillor Schreiber said: "Council needs to get onto state and federal recovery grants as quickly as possible so we can inject money where it is needed to bring back tourists and save our local businesses and jobs."

A motion is to be brought before Blue Mountains City Council in January for rent relief for council owned properties, which was announced by council on January 15. Mr Jarvis and Mr Vergotis welcomed the move.

"It is good to see that the Blue Mountains City Council is considering following the lead set by local businesses," he said.