The winds of business blow cold in PoPo. Photo: John Moyle

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By Andrew Woodhouse

If small business is the backbone of a community, is Potts Point about to become spineless?

Right before Christmas, high hoardings on the foot path will block access to six cherished local shops at 133 Macleay Street, opposite the Fitzroy Gardens fountain.

Macleay Street is the area’s “High Street”.

It’s where the butcher, baker and candle stick maker do business.

Local shops provide a cornucopia of delights including the Oasis X Emporium’s “paws point” puppy winter trench coats and matching shirts, a twin set for those on the other end of the leash, at 115 Macleay Street.

If they’re undeciders they can trade outfits every second day at The Clothes Library, 17 Darlinghurst Road, or become decidedly delicieux with a St. Tropez  éclair, adored by screen goddess Brigitte Bardot for its butter cream and silky orange blossom flower filling, at Douce France Cafe, 7 Darlinghurst Road.

Shoppers can have pictures beautifully framed at Piotr Paprocki’s Right Angles framing, 135 Macleay Street or pick a pre-Christmas homewares object d’art from Patrice Ribault’s chic Little Candle shop, 133 Macleay Street.

Flaneurs then enjoy hors d’oeuvres with an Italian short black and pizzetta at Macleay Street Pizza, 101 Macleay Street, before perhaps collecting a crackle-encrusted roast pork dinner from Richard’s farm-to-plate butchery and deli at 50 Macleay Street.

I could go on but my Editor’s injunction, “under five pages” must be obeyed.

So why place this joie de vivre in peril?

As if by witchcraft seven Potts Point stores have closed, all within 150 metres of each other.

One in Macleay Street recently, another rather dramatically with only a few hours’ notice.

Other businesses are under threat because of pre-Christmas façade maintenance at 133 Macleay Street.

This myopia threatens the viability of six shops in a row.

Consider this, Toni and Guy hairdressing: gone.

The Good Times ice-cream shop and Dot’s Delicatessen: for lease.

Hazhaz menswear: closed.

The Marcelle Café, a local community hub: died.

Its lease was not renewed and the building’s Owners’ Corporation issued a blunt letter stating its outside tables and chairs would become “awkward” to maintain during lengthy pre-Christmas, non-urgent, awning works.

This is despite the outside area being subject to a separate council/cafe footpath lease and not part of the strata building.

Locals came in one morning for their daily dose of caffeine served with Tommy’s smile to be greeted by a locked door and newspapers glued to the inside of the door.

The café’s effervescent manager, Tommy, seemed to be in shock when he spoke to City Hub.

He said the café closed for two reasons: the perfunctory letter from the Owners’ Corporation, received without any warning, advising of on-street hoarding and maintenance works and because the shop lease expired.

He said “I fell in love with the area, and patrons reciprocated…I felt part of a community which cared.”

An email of 17th August from Alldis and Cox, Strata Managers, and its Managing Director, Stuart Cox, acting for the Owners’ Corporation Executive Committee, claimed works are urgent, three years overdue and said tenants should contact their landlords, not them, adding “We don’t believe access to retail outlets will be unreasonably affected”.

Local retailers vehemently disagree and are unconvinced.

They asked to see the engineer’s report but were refused.

They claim their letter from Alldis Strata gives them the right to respond to Alldis.

Their first shot fired in the war, a large petition, was slapped back with the ambiguous comment “There will not be further correspondence other than in this manner”.

The mega-hoarding will protrude 2.5 metres from shop windows directly across the 2.5 pavement, imprisoning shops.

The scheme will block Christmas window shopping, limit direct pedestrian access and deliveries to shops, reduce pedestrian traffic flow generally in the area and force potential shoppers onto the road or the other side of the street.

Two mature, majestic heritage London Plane trees on edge of the 2.5 metre zone are threatened from root damage.

Patrice Ribault from the Little Candle Shop said “Our much-needed Christmas trade will be traduced and our future viability threatened.

“Sales will be shattered – we rely on this period of trade to help sustain us throughout the year.

“We may have to close. Works should be postponed until January 2019.”

Sha Sha, proprietor of the colourful Oasis X Emporium nearby is also indirectly affected.

She said “We need our small businesses to give life and buzz to the area.

“It gives Potts Point its point…the awning and façade works should happen in January.”

Piotr Paprocki, owner of Right Angles framing shop, also subject to high hoarding barricades was adamant “January is the time for maintenance, not prior to Christmas.

“Shop owners are already under siege from rentals, per square metre some of the highest in Sydney.”

Requests for postponement of works were put to Alldis in a letter dated 14th August 2018.

Stuart Cox replied “The Owners’ Corporation will be pressing ahead with the works as notified.”

Only one owner in the strata block spoke to City Hub saying she believed works should be postponed in fairness to retailers.

It all seems like a two-fingered salute to the community who are now upping the ante and taking their battle to Town Hall.

With Potts Point the centre of all rumours the fountain cafe may be the latest to catch the contagion.