Motels – getting back up and running – are you good to go?

9 June 2020

With Queensland moving into stage 2 of the relaxation process ahead of schedule, everyone is working frantically.  This means preparing COVID Safe plans, hiring staff (or re-hiring staff that were previously terminated), and generally working out what the new normal is. In some cases, this is also a unique time to make changes to your business and (hopefully) revitalise it.

This, of course, remains a rapidly evolving situation with continual policy announcements from local, state and federal governments, so guidance is often changing and we encourage you to continue to monitor the source of all announcements (in particular the Queensland government website and industry bodies such as Tourism Queensland.

The purpose of this article is to highlight some of the key issues that operators should be addressing right now.

Good to Go

The new tourism campaign announced is the “Good to Go” campaign, aiming to encourage Queenslanders to explore their own backyard.  It is envisaged that this program will eventually extend to interstate travel (when the border issue is resolved). We encourage all motels to get involved – which means having your COVID Safe documentation in place.  With that you will be able to use the logo and promote your business as being “Good to Go”. There is more information to be found on Tourism Queensland’s website.

Motel facilities – safe work

All businesses must have a COVID Safe plan.  There is an abundance of information about in relation to what these plans require and we encourage you to be familiar with the many resources available from Safe Work Australia, and stay up to date as this is an evolving area.

There are approved industry plans that will need to be complied with, and there may be several if your business crosses several industries (for example the Queensland Tourism and Accommodation plan, the Food Services plan, Queensland Clubs and Hotels plan and Queensland wineries plan). All of the currently approved plans can be found here (including those still under consideration).

We would expect that this will be a new normal and need to be incorporated into your business for many months (perhaps indefinitely). You need to take a proactive approach to ensuring compliance with the approved plans.

Rent

It has been almost 2 months since the National Cabinet announced the Code of Conduct and finally, Queensland enacted the Retail Shop Leases and Other Commercial Leases (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020 (the Regulations), which came into effect on 28 May 2020.  However it is important to know that the Regulations do not prevent the parties from reaching an agreement outside of or inconsistent with the Regulations (as many have done in the last couple of months).

Generally the Regulations will apply for to the response period, which is the period between 29 March 2020 and 30 September 2020. Please see our detailed article about the new regulations and how they apply here.

It is important to remember that, whilst rent is likely to be the single biggest expense for a motel tenant, from a landlord’s point of view it may also be their only source of income or they may hold the lease in their superfund (and have other legislation restricting what they can and cannot agree to).  As a tenant, you are looking for short term, temporary assistance, similarly, as a landlord, you are seeking to assist your tenant and ensure that the business remains viable (and with that the future rent payments).

Moving forward

As you will appreciate, these insights are general guidance only and should not be relied on as legal advice. If any of these issues are affecting your specific business, please contact Mahoneys to obtain timely and practical legal advice on the actual issues you are facing.


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