The Art Gallery Cafe building, located beside the Lismore Art Gallery in Spinks Park.
The Art Gallery Cafe building, located beside the Lismore Art Gallery in Spinks Park. Cathy Adams

Storm brewing on cafe lease

LISMORE cafe owners have accused the Lismore City Council of creating an unfair advantage for the new owner of the Art Gallery Cafe after leasing the site at substantially below market rent.

A number of owners spoke to The Northern Star after it was reported the council would lease the gallery cafe for a total of $25,000 over three years.

Various real estate agents called the price “low” and “well below what you would expect as a landlord”, with one estimating a large cafe in Woodlark St would cost about $62,000 for one year.

Keen St’s Zen Sushi owner, Mayumi Alexander, feels no ill-will towards the new operator of the Art Gallery Cafe, but believes it would create an “unfair advantage”.

“It’s a lot less than the rest of us are paying. It makes it hard to compete when you have higher overheads,” she said.

Goanna Cafe owner Geoff Haycraft said he was lucky as he would not have to compete directly with the art gallery site as he served a “niche” menu, but felt for other cafes close to the gallery.

Bill Sheaffe, of Caddies Coffee, also questioned why the site wasn’t leased on more usual commercial terms.

“It’s a disadvantage for existing businesses to give someone such a generous concession.

"I would call it unfair,” he said.

“The Art Gallery Cafe is in a very prominent position. In normal real estate transactions that would attract a premium, not a discount.”

The council had previously conducted two rounds of tenders, but did not get any acceptable bids.

Earlier this month councillors voted to accept the unsolicited offer.

A council spokesman said it had two objectives with the lease: create a food outlet in Spinks Park and attract more people to the gallery and CBD.

“Neither of these objectives would be met by holding out for an unrealistic rent,” he said.

“Any concerns from established cafes should acknowledge that this is a replacement business rather than a new business and that the council is just as much a landlord as other sites in competing for a tenant.”



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