Simon Clough
Simon Clough

Action on cafe lease off menu

THE planned rescission motion over the controversial leasing of the Regional Art Gallery cafe by Lismore City Council has been withdrawn.

Deputy Mayor Simon Clough, who had seconded the motion, yesterday said he had decided to withdraw his backing due to lack of support among fellow councillors.

“I don’t feel that there was support within council for the rescission motion and it was also putting the prospective lessee in a very difficult position,” he said.

The leasing of the cafe has become engulfed in controversy and angered other CBD cafes after when details of the deal became widely known.

Under the terms the new lease, the operator will pay $5000 in the first year and $10,000 for the second and third year – well below market rates.

Cr Clough said putting the rescission motion to next month’sregular meeting would keep the new lessees on hold for another two weeks.

“It would be another fortnight and there is too much uncertainty,” he said.

“The new lessees have committed themselves to starting a new business.

“I have also become aware there is little or no support among other councillors.

"The other issue is it’s very hard for councillors to go in and say this is the way the lease should be.”

Cr Vanessa Ekins, who proposed the rescission motion and voted against the lease at the last meeting, said unless another councillor stepped in the rescission motion “was dead in the water”.

“Basically there is no support from staff or councillors for the rescission motion,” she said.

To put a rescission motion up for discussion, it must be backed by three councillors.

The third councillor, Gianpiero Battista, who along with his wife Rebecca ran the Left Bank cafe at the site before they withdraw their tender to renew the lease when council staff said they wanted to negotiate for more, yesterday described Cr Clough’s decision as “strange”.

“I offered my support, but it wasn’t initiated by me,” Cr Battista said.

“I find it strange that after Vanessa and Simon contacted me, that Simon would withdraw his support.

As a representative of ratepayers I am very concerned about the low rent and how that is going to affect other businesses that pay higher rent.”

He said during the second tender round, one applicant offered $31,000, but was refused by council.

The council has previously stated that this was because of the applicant’s lack of experience in running a cafe.

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