Could pop-up shops and mobile food vans send existing retailers, cafes and restaurants in Broome to the wall? Pictured is real estate agent Tony Hutchinson with Runway Bar & Restaurant manager Tex Kitchen.
Broome businesses battling to pay rates and rents are worried a proposal to allow pop-up traders and food vans into selected locations would sound their death knell.
The Shire of Broome is considering making changes to its trading in public places policy after increased requests from people wanting to become mobile traders.
In his submission to the council, Broome real estate agent Tony Hutchinson said the council needed to be mindful about what effects increased competition would have on existing traders, including cafes and restaurants.
Mr Hutchinson said they all contributed large amounts of rates but the only requirement for stallholders and food vans was a trading licence, which could specify certain days or hours of operation. “The non-permanent people should pay rent reflecting the amount of business being done and rents paid by competitors,” he said.
Mr Hutchinson believes introduction of the the so-called “trading nodes” would be disastrous on businesses struggling with a downturn in the local economy and changes in retail spending habits.
“We could become a pop-up town with limited permanent specialist retailers and food providers,” he said.
Three restaurants have closed in the town over the past year — 18 Degrees, Cafe D’Amore and Azuki Fusion. The properties remain vacant and available for lease.
Mr Hutchinson said pop-up shops and food vans should be restricted to remote locations away from retail areas or be limited to festivals and markets or in available vacant shops.
The proposed trading nodes would be at Town Beach, Broome Recreation and Aquatic Centre, Cable Beach, Tanami Park and Chinatown in the CBD.
Under current council policy, pop-up traders and food vans are generally prohibited from operating within 300m of a competing permanent business.
The council said they had the capacity to activate public spaces and attract people, while increasing economic activity and adding diversity and vibrancy.
A maximum of three pop-up traders/food vans would be allowed at any one time within a trading node. In relation to Chinatown, the council said they would be allowed during certain times — such as cruise-ship days — and in specific locations to “minimise conflicts with permanent traders”.
Every business in Chinatown with whom the Broome Advertiser spoke had concerns with the proposal. Runway Bar & Restaurant manager Tex Kitchen said increasing the number of pop-up traders and food vans had the potential to “kill the town”.
“It would be difficult for us as a permanent restaurant and bar to compete with a food van while we keep our doors open over the wet, pay rent for the facility and come up with wages,” he said.
“We are all for them during markets and festivals, but if the number continues to increase, it could seriously impact local businesses.”
Pearl retailer David Galwey said pop-up traders should be restricted to events and be compelled to work the same hours that permanent retailers are open.
“If it is not restricted to special event days, we will wind up with a lot of businesses possibly closing their doors as they cannot compete with those who run a van without all the overheads and costs,” he said.
Mangrove Hotel general manager Glyn Batten said it was essential permanent operators made revenue during the peak tourist season.
“Any negative impact on the periods where everyone is trying to make a living is a detriment to the town as it means permanent businesses cannot continue trading,” he said.
Shady Lane Cafe manager Debbie Young said the proposal was “just not good enough”.
“It would affect not only our business, but many other traders in Chinatown and the Shire have to look elsewhere,” she said.
Yuen Wing General Store owner Kwok Chan said while Chinatown businesses paid land rates and taxes, mobile traders could “pop up, make money and leave without paying these rates”.
Customers line up at food vans during last year's Shinju Matsuri festival.