Yamba anger at outdoor dining fees

DOES a coffee in Yamba cost nine times that of a coffee in South Grafton?

Put in the simplest terms, this is how Yamba businesses are viewing the new council fee structure for outdoor dining and they are furious.

The draft policy was explained to the Yamba Chamber of Commerce on Monday night in the first consultation with businesses in Yamba in the 12 or so months it has taken to prepare.

Cafe owners and restaurants now have 20 days to prepare a submission to council if they do not like it.

There are changes to setbacks and seating locations and changes to licensing for alcohol-free zones but it is the abolition of tables against buildings – or ‘shoreline’ dining – and the new fee structures based on property prices that Yamba says will potentially make some businesses unviable.

“The proposal is so illogical and is fundamentally flawed,” Yamba Chamber president Daniel Reeves said.

Others argued that poor access planning on council’s behalf – rippled tiles to help the visually impaired were not laid in the town’s footpaths – now means restaurants have to foot the bill through the loss of shoreline dining.

The chamber argued that Yamba’s population swells in the holiday seasons but for the rest of the year they operate from a population of about 7000 people to bring in their daily bread and butter.

“Land values don’t reflect income flows or occupancy rates,” said Roger Buck, the owner of three restaurants in Clarence Street or ‘Yamba Hill’, the top-priced outdoor dining area in the draft policy at $90 per square metre.

“How can council discount the reality of everyday economics in regional, never mind seasonal, towns?

“To adjust pricing upwards on retailers who are struggling to break even, are they uncaring or do they simply lack the sophistication to realise they are putting jobs and livelihoods at risk.”

If adopted, the new policy would see Mr Buck paying $11,520 a year for outdoor dining for the three premises he owns with his business partner – an increase of about $7500 on his current costs.

They have for the past two years absorbed rate hikes to protect the businesses that rent from them but say that this policy would be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Darren Adams owns the Sound Lounge in Yamba Street, but not the building.

He estimates around 90 per cent of cafe and restaurant owners in Yamba do not own the so-called ‘prime’ real estate that their business occupies.

“I’ll be paying double (under this policy),” he said.

The only councillor present at Monday’s meeting was Karen Toms. She agreed the last people to get paid were small business owners.

“Council staff get paid every two weeks, business owners get paid once all their bills have been paid,” she said.

She urged people to write a submission to council before the policy goes to April’s committee meeting.

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