The awning at the center of the issue. Photo: John Moyle.

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BY JOHN MOYLE

Last week more than 500 Facebook followers of the Piccolo Bar received a shock when former operator Tina Newton-Carra posted that the Kings Cross institution was being forced to remove its iconic black and yellow under-awning sign.

At first glance it appeared to be a sign of gentrification marching through the area, but on closer inspection the demand is the result of something just as insidious: an executive strata committee exercising its powers without proper consultation with the parties concerned.

“Since 1952 there has always been some under-awning sign there and this one has been there for 12-15 years,” Tina Newton-Carra, former Piccolo Bar operator says.
While the sign is not designated heritage, it does have important cultural significance to the area as it sign posts one of Australia’s oldest cafes and its long history.

The strata committee of the building, known as The Manhattan and featuring 38 apartments and five shops, voted 6:3 to remove the sign.
Four of the committee who voted for removal do not live in the building.
The demand also impacts upon the EzyMart convenience shop, located on the corner of Roslyn and Ward Avenue, one of the last older style corner stores in the area.
“We lose money if we don’t have a sign,” Hussein, EzyMart shop manager, said.

For the first time in years all five Roslyn Street shops under the new awning are currently occupied and the street has something of its old character returning.

The situation is curious as the executive strata committee is going against its own recommendations, because in April they signed-off on a contract with new awning erectors for the ‘sign to be re-fitted to awning structure’.
On Tuesday, builders took down the store sign and put it into storage.

“The body corporate don’t seem to have considered that we are a small business and that to pay our strata levies we need to make a profit,” said Shamus Moore, Piccolo Bar operator.

The situation is one experienced by many dwellers in multiple occupancy buildings where a small clique take over the decision-making without historical or current knowledge.
“A very small group in the building have a history of issues with the Piccolo Bar,” Ian Chapman, committee member said.

Strata disputes such as this can quickly escalate beyond consultation into expensive legal representation for both parties.
Jimmy Thomson is a real estate commentator who writes the Flat Chat column for the Australian Financial Review and his own website, and is well-informed on the rapidly changing environment in Potts Point.
“Sadly, it seems that the gentrification of our inner-city suburbs is providing the opportunity for some committees and individuals to settle old strata scores,” Jimmy Thomson told City Hub.

If all attempts to settle disputes through dialogue fail, many cases will end up before the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which in the year 2016-2017 dealt with 1,369 cases.