Businesses saying bye-bye to Byron
BUSINESSES come and go in Byron Bay – but rarely with the rapidity of the Spar supermarket.
The retailer closed its doors on Sunday after a mere six months in a new CBD block housing stylish apartments and a hostel.
Byron United’s Sevegne Newton said the supermarket’s demise pointed to a larger problem in the world famous tourist town – the fact that many businesses were finding it impossible to survive.
“Byron Bay just doesn’t have the people coming through any more to support local businesses,” Ms Newton said.
“If you don’t have the tourist numbers you get this trickle-down, which has led to 30 people losing their jobs. The council doesn’t want to encourage tour-ism, but it’s the town’s lifeblood.”
In Jonson Street alone, a restaurant, a second-hand bookshop and a dry cleaner have recently made way for a kebab shop and a fashion chain, and Retravision is quitting to rent to a discount chemist.
Elton Cummings, whose family owns the Retravision outlet, a 35-year-old institution, said the costs involved, including land tax and rates, were jumping.
Ed Ahern, head of Byron United, said there were many external reasons for Byron’s slowdown, but the primary fault lay with the Byron Shire Council and its green ideology.
“The council has been anti-business and anti-tourism for a long time,” Mr Ahern said.
He said that the council was ‘stuck in the 70s’, with no real plan and no vision for the town.
“Byron should be the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but it’s weed-ridden and covered in graffiti,” Mr Ahern said. “Not enough has been spent on gardens, parks, toilets or other infrastructure to make it attractive to visitors.
State Ballina MP Don Page agreed. “Byron council needs to deal with infrastructure such as roads in order to sort out its traffic issues,” he said.
And the tourism industry had to make a contribution.
“Those who profit from tourism should put their hand in their pocket,” Mr Page said.
Ms Newton said Byron needed a tourism management body.
“We’re not competing with the likes of Kingscliff and Casuarina on any level,” she said.
One issue of which Byron United and the council agree is rents, which Mr Ahern said were ‘outrageous’ and ‘unsustainable’ in the longer term.
Mayor Jan Barham has repeatedly called for landlords to take the town’s community needs into consideration, and let small, locally-owned businesses survive.
“Otherwise we’ll have a town full of franchises,” she said.
Business consultant Phil Daly, of Pinnacle Business Solutions, said Byron’s woes were a ripple from the global financial crisis hitting many regional businesses.
“It’s a difficult time, but we’ve had difficult times before,” he said.
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