Byron Bay retail rent ‘unreal'

AN EXPERIENCED retailer has revealed her own struggles with "unrealistic" rent and the "hard-nosed" landlord she shares with Byron Bay's Dendy movie theatre.

India Fox said this was the toughest economic times she had experienced in 38 years in retail, but many Byron landlords like hers were still demanding boom- time rents.

Dendy recently announced it would close its doors next month after failing to negotiate a viable rent deal with the building's Gold Coast owner, Robert Badalotti from Azzura Developments.

The cinema loss has caused anger in the town, with many people blaming "greedy" landlords.

Ms Fox owns the Asian import stores Bohotopia in Byron Bay and Lismore and pays $1400 a week for her 124sq m Byron shop beneath Dendy on the bottom end of Jonson St.

By Byron standards this is a mid-range rent with shop owners at the beach end of the town forking out premium rates.

But by comparison, Ms Fox pays about $900 a week in Keen St - Lismore's premium shopping district - for 330sq m, almost three times as big as her Byron store. Ms Fox says she needs to make $900 a day at both her Byron and Lismore stores to cover expenses. In 18 months of operating she had not even come close in Byron, but in 10 years of Lismore trading she had always at least covered her costs.

"We have had days we've made just over $100 (in Byron). I think Lismore has a steadier population," she said. "The hippies in Byron Bay are now just backpackers passing through... because (the others have) been priced out."

Even during the Blues and Splendour In The Grass festivals, the only increases she experi- enced was in shoplifting.

Ms Fox said repeated requests to break, change or have a neighbouring tenant take over her lease, which was due to expire in November 2013, had been rejected by Mr Badalotti.

The Rosebank resident reckons she gained more co-operation from Westfield Shopping Centre management when she faced financial troubles in Sydney in the 1980s than in Byron.

Mr Badalotti and his managing agent Jamie Bourke did not return The Northern Star's phone calls. But Mr Bourke has been reported denying increased rent was a major factor in their closure. Mr Badalotti has added the Woolworths site to his Byron portfolio for $18 million.

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