Shepparton News

SAM cafe pivot hopes to deliver better outcome

- DARREN LINTON darren.linton@ sheppnews.com.au Darren Linton is chief correspond­ent at McPherson Media Group.

The day I landed in quarantine, there was a bit to organise.

In a news sense, we’ve been flat out ever since, so I missed this announceme­nt from Shepparton Art Museum Limited (SAM Ltd).

SAM has ‘‘reimagined’’ the expression­s of interest process for the operation of the new SAM cafe and is urging local businesses to embrace the opportunit­y.

Going through a third EOI process isn’t ideal for SAM, especially given that Greater Shepparton City Council had already agreed to step in and run the cafe for 12 months or until a commercial operator can be found.

To put it mildly, the advertisin­g of cafe jobs by the council wasn’t well received in the Shepparton hospitalit­y industry.

The wages and conditions were well above what local businesses could offer, and they feared they would lose staff.

Because of lockdowns and pandemic restrictio­ns on trade, hospitalit­y has been battered financiall­y for 18 months; they could ill afford to pay more and could not offer the same security as the council, which could use its deep pockets to prop up the business.

Every hospitalit­y business owner I’ve spoken to about this issue has said they don’t mind competitio­n, but the SAM cafe needs to operate commercial­ly.

It is worth noting that not one of the critics has expressed any reservatio­ns about SAM; they love it,

want it to succeed and expect it will drive visitation that will benefit many businesses.

Two EOI processes have failed to reach an agreement with any commercial provider, but it isn’t worth pondering the reasons why; the simple fact is that this one can’t fail.

There is a tragic irony in the process commencing when hospitalit­y is again suffering from Stage 4 restrictio­ns in Victoria; some have even had to stop offering takeaway and close temporaril­y because they were identified as potential exposure sites.

Council is urging support for local businesses as we emerge from the Shepparton COVID-19 outbreak, and rightly so.

Following the outcry over the council proposal to run the cafe, a cracking deal was put together involving a mixture of business and philanthro­py; it would achieve the desired commercial outcome and reduce the risk for SAM and the operator.

SAM Ltd quite rightly went out to market again with a new determinat­ion to get an outcome.

“The SAM Ltd board is listening to the community and working alongside many well-known businesses to find a way to make this offering work in unpreceden­ted, challengin­g times delivered by COVID19. We firmly agree with the community that a well-run cafe is essential to the success of SAM and should benefit the whole town,” SAM Ltd chair Stephen Merrylees said in a statement.

The EOI process is necessary, and an even better deal may emerge, but what is clear is that SAM Ltd needs to find a solution. It can’t fall back on the council offer, which is generous to SAM but unpalatabl­e for ratepayers.

 ??  ?? Same SAM, different process: The new Shepparton Art Museum will be a major drawcard and so will the cafe. A third expression of interest process to find a commercial operator is under way.
Same SAM, different process: The new Shepparton Art Museum will be a major drawcard and so will the cafe. A third expression of interest process to find a commercial operator is under way.

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