Cafe owners seek costs for upgrade delay

SUTHERLAND Shire Council rejected a Cronulla restaurant’s request for $44,000 as partial compensation for lost trade during the protracted $3million upgrade of The Esplanade.

The move could see legal action taken against the council and a bigger payout ordered.

Ray Nelson, whose family owns and operates Zimzala, said the business was severely affected by construction work, which was meant to be completed by October 9 last year.

Instead, it continued until just before Christmas and is due to resume in May this year, when the pavement will be replaced.

Mr Nelson said the disruption had so far cost $200,000 in lost business and they could be bankrupted by the next stage of work, particularly if it also ran over schedule.

‘‘We can’t afford to take another hit like that,’’ he said.

‘‘The project will end up taking at least four to five months longer than we were originally advised.

‘‘We showed the council our trading figures and asked for compensation for the two months the project ran over last year, amounting to about $44,000.

‘‘The council refused, which leaves us with no option but to take legal action to recover the full loss, nearly $200,000, for the period from June to December.’’

Mr Nelson said business owners in Gymea and Sutherland experienced the same problem with council works.

Sue and Michael Sotiropoulos, who own the adjoining Barefoot of the Beach cafe, said they knew nothing about The Esplanade upgrade when they bought the business a year ago. ‘‘It was a real shock when we found out,’’ Mrs Sotiropoulos said. 

‘‘Our cafe is in a beautiful spot and the work made it even better, but the council has to understand the severe financial pressure we are under.

‘‘Our family works in the business and we rely on it for our income. Bankruptcy is a real possibility if we have another experience like last year.’’

Both businesses appealed for the council to postpone the remainder of the work for a year.

 ‘‘It would give us time to catch up,’’ Mrs Sotiropoulos said.

‘‘You need that, or you are forever chasing your tail.’’

Cronulla Chamber of Commerce president Mark Aprilovic said the body was ‘‘sympathetic’’ to the problems experienced by the two businesses.

The council’s general manager John Rayner said, as Mr Nelson was proposing legal action, no comment could be made on the compensation question.

‘‘Council has been promoting the Cronulla beach area and, as part of that promotion, launched the shire’s new visitor guide at Zimzala last week,’’ he said.

The council offered no response to the the claim it had also shown no regard for businesses in other suburbs, including Gymea and Sutherland, which had suffered when projects ran over time.

OUT OF POCKET

Proprietor Ray Nelson said Zimzala paid Cronulla Surf Life Saving Club one of the highest rents in the area.

‘‘We are proud to be providing the club with just on $250,000 a year to assist them in running what is a great club, steeped in over 100 years of history,’’ he said.

‘‘We built Zimzala at a cost of over $1 million and yet the council does not respect the fact that without our family’s contribution the site may still be a derelict old fibro shack.

‘‘The building will remain in the hands of the surf club for many years after we have moved on from Zimzala.’’

See related story: http://www.theleader.com.au/story/340030/beach-project-suspended/

Should the council compensate businesses in situations like this?

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