BY MICHAEL FORNO
Small businesses on George Street continue to suffer due to ongoing construction of the city’s light rail project.
Cafes, restaurants and retailers have faced a downturn in business since the light rail construction began. Others face difficulties in carrying out day-to-day business operations.
Councillor and small business owner Angela Vithoulkas knows exactly what these businesses are going through. She believes that until recently businesses have been reluctant to speak out for fear of unfair treatment by landlords, however now many feel they have nothing to lose.
“Hundreds of small business owners have been writing to me. Many of them can’t get deliveries or can’t get their rubbish picked up.
“We have customers getting up and leaving our business when the noise gets too much.
“It’s a complete and utter disaster and it has been for 18 months. It’s now beginning to effect other areas in the CBD,” Cr Vithoulkas said.
David Tracey, owner of Steel Bar & Grill in Sydney’s CBD, believes the government is out of touch and needs to better consult with small business owners.
“We need the Government to understand what’s going on at ground level,
“Our business is sandwiched between major Government and private construction sites. While they talk about an upturn once construction is finalized, we want to let them know that approach is not going to work, it just means that small business will be wiped out.
There is no talk of compensation when we are impacted through no fault of our own,” Mr Tracey said.
Despite the concerns of local businesses the Transport Minister Andrew Constance believes that all is well.
“Of course major construction like this can be disruptive and that’s exactly why we’ve got strategies in place to keep the foot traffic coming,” he told AAP
“We’ve worked closely with all the businesses on George Street and across the Light Rail route and we thank them for bearing with us while we get on with building this game-changing public transport project.”
Peter May, Executive Office of CBD Sydney Chamber said that businesses in the key corridor of George Street are being impacted by the light rail construction.
“Some businesses say their turnovers have been adversely affected, and some say they are experiencing disruption to services like garbage removals as a result of the light rail development,” he said.
Mr May added that once the construction is over, retailers will have a sparkling retail and business precinct.
“There are a number of avenues for small business experiencing problems during this time. They can go to the Altrac Light Rail community forums where they give updates on the light rail construction.
“They can contact the Small Business Commissioner for support and advice. This body was specifically set up to help small business during the construction period.
“Small businesses can also contact the City of Sydney for advice if they have any issues with services such as garbage removals, he said.
Cr Vitholkas is not convinced that the foot traffic alone can keep businesses viable.
“If anyone has been down George Street or any of the side streets where the light rail is happening, they would know that the barricades that have been put up means you can’t see anything at all,” she said.
The light rail project is due to be fully operational in early 2019; a timeframe that seems far too long for some like Cr Vithoulkas.
“We won’t be here in three years, there will be no small business left.”
“This is a desperate, desperate situation.”