Cafe owner forced to 'go to the top' to save her business
PERSERVERANCE has paid off for the owner of Duck Pond Espresso Bar, after "going to the top” to save her small business from permanent closure.
In January, Noreen Colley was told her landlord would be expanding her business and would not be renewing her lease at the end of February.
"I was devastated to have to close because I wasn't sure we'd be able to get another premises,” she said.
"Then as soon as he heard we had to vacate, our new landlord Darren stepped in and invited us to come and set up just 12m down the road.
"I was so thankful.”
But Ms Colley was about to face another setback.
She contacted Lismore City Council on January 10 only to discover she would need to lodge a development application for a whole new business in order to re-open.
"We thought it would be a simple flick and tick but no, we had to go right back to square one,” she said.
"I struggled with why we had so many boxes to tick with the DA, with parking and the flood when we were only moving 12 metres and they were all ticked to begin with.”
Not owning a computer made things more difficult for Ms Colley, who was eventually forced to hire a town planner to help lodge the DA.
The Duck Pond Espresso Bar remained closed for about six weeks while the DA sat with council.
"I found I wasn't getting anywhere with council, even after spending thousands on the town planner,” she said.
"Every time I spoke to the planning department it just seemed to be another road block.
"I was absolutely frustrated.
"When we closed there was no income which was difficult because we still had bills to pay. My health started to suffer.”
Ms Colley said it was "political intervention” that saved her business.
"I felt like if I didn't go to the top it would take forever, so I personally called the general manager Shelley Oldham and told her that I need help and I need it now,” she said.
"I also spoke to the Mayor Isaac Smith and Councillor Nancy Casson helped a lot too.
"Between them talking to the planning department they got it happening... between the whole lot we seemed to get the boxes ticked. My landlord Darren rang Janelle Saffin, who met with Shelley about it too.
"I'd like to thank everyone who got in the last minute to help me re-open.”
Now serving coffee and light snacks from her "big red coffee van” next to the South Lismore Post Office on Union St, Ms Colley gave other struggling small business owners some advice.
"If you are struggling, ring the council, be persistent, organise to meet with them tell them what you need and don't give up,” she said.
Ms Oldham said it was the planning staff who deserved credit for helping Ms Colley to re-open.
"I received representations from a community member about the issue and raised it with our planning team. There had been some outstanding compliance requirements, but our staff have worked collaboratively with the owner to ensure the business could get up and running by Easter,” Ms Oldham said.
"I did not intervene nor give the green light - planning staff have worked with the owner to achieve a good outcome for everyone and I am very pleased they have been able to do so. We want to see business open, trading and thriving in our city.”