Or maybe I should phrase it this way: are local landlords chasing the rent that they think they can get from small bars slowly killing Beaufort Street? Ok – I’ve chosen a deliberately controversial and simplified headline and please don’t get me wrong – I love small bars. Having spent 4 years in Europe and experienced the small bar culture there I was thrilled when they changed the liquor laws for WA to finally allow for them. My questions and concerns refer specifically to the Mt Lawley/Highgate part of Beaufort St from the Walcott St ish intersection down where we already have a number of great small bars in operation but also a shrinking number of alternate businesses. Whilst parts of Beaufort St and our local suburbs where there were no small bars have considerably benefited from the addition over the last year or so, think Swallow Bar in Maylands, the newly opened Miss Kitty’s Saloon in Inglewood and The Classroom on Charles St in North Perth, it’s my view that landlords chasing higher rental returns from this 700m or so strip of Mt Lawley are pursuing them at the expense of what I think is central to building and sustaining a vibrant community – diversity. The demise of long standing local niche businesses, like Antonio’s Fresh Continental Store, Ottobrino’s meats, Emerge Art Studio (now in Inglewood) and Planet (now upstairs above the bookshop) as well as newer boutique outlets (Daisy and Charlie are also closing) is incredibly sad to see and vacant spaces or outlets of large national chains do little to add to the strips vibe and appeal.
I accept that it’s a difficult issue for all stakeholders – landlords understandably wish to maximise their investment, the community wants (I believe) a diversity of outlets and services and not to see Beaufort St turn solely into an entertainment precinct, the City of Vincent wants (I hope) to also have a vibrant community and less unleased retail space and small businesses owners want a fair go and not to have to walk away from their investment. I don’t see an obvious solution but I understand that it’s a hot topic for the members of the Beaufort St Network and one that they have provided feedback to council on. What do you see as the solution? Putting a limit on the amount of time a retail outlet can be left vacant to encourage alternate, living uses for spaces whilst a more permanent tenant is sought? Placing limits on the % of certain types of businesses that can operate in the area? Local government providing incentives and planning breaks to encourage specific types of retailers back to the area? Or, are you happy for this strip of Beaufort Street to become more homogenous and entertainment focused? Is all change for the better and are you supportive of the direction this area is taking? If you live in or own a business in the area and want to get more involved in the discussion contact the Network – they’re always looking for local businesses, residents and groups to join in on the discussion.