ILLEGAL? CAFE CRACKDOWN
By MEGAN KINNINMENT
NINE Byron Bay restaurants fear they will go bust under a council crackdown on illegal takeaway food outlets.
The Byron Shire Council alleges many of the restaurants operating in Bay Lane, behind the Beach Hotel, only have approval to operate as takeaways, not as seated restaurants, and will have to pay thousands of dollars in order to comply with regulations or face legal action.
Some of the Bay Lane restaurateurs yesterday told The Northern Star they feared the compliance fees that may be imposed by the council will put them out of business, while reverting to takeaways will render them unviable.
One business owner feared she may have to pay as much as $200,000 to comply with the council's requirements to operate as a restaurant, despite having operated that way for years.
"I'll be out of business," the restaurant owner said. "And I wouldn't be able to sell my business either. I hope the council can be reasonable. At this time of the year we are all doing it tough."
Council compliance officers have been investigating the Bay Lane restaurants after alleged complaints from within the Byron Bay restaurant industry and from the public, a council report stated.
The issue was debated at the council's ordinary meeting on Tuesday and yesterday Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham confirmed they had resolved to issue most of the business owners with letters outlining various compliance breaches and giving them 28 days to respond.
"We're not trying to be heavy-handed," Cr Barham said.
"But we have to be responsible. Business is business. If you have rules they have to be followed, otherwise you're negating those legitimate business owners who do the right thing," she said.
Andrew Drysdale, the owner of Fresh Cafe Restaurant, one of the few Bay Lane cafes that appears to have met all of their compliance responsibilities, yesterday urged the council to negotiate with the other Bay Lane operators.
"It's hard to turn around to people who have been operating for years and tell them to comply or close," Mr Drysdale said.
"We're not talking about millionaire business owners here.
"They're mostly husband and wife teams who do it because they love it."
Mr Drysdale wants the council to work with the restaurants, and block off the lane at night so pedestrian safety issues are resolved and the lane maintains its appeal as a restaurant precinct.