Could a secret deal to secure a cafe its own frontage onto Byron’s Railway Park have produced an unfair commercial advantage over neighbouring cafe operators?
Mayor Simon Richardson doesn’t appear to think so, and has told The Echo he tried to persuade the Byronian Cafe owner of that option if the cafe chose to stay in its location.
Cr Richardson told The Echo he intervened after he learned a food- chain restaurant was looking at taking on the location.
Instead, the Commonwealth Bank has relocated into the building, and that coincides with the completion of the first stage of the park’s upgrade under the town’s masterplan.
Cr Richardson did not reply as to whether other staff members or councillors were present at the meeting/s with the cafe owner.
The Echo also asked whether one of the trees that was removed without warning/approval last November was blocking this potential arrangement. To date, there has been no accountability for the action, which was ordered by Council’s former general manager.
Cr Richardson told The Echo, ‘I met the architect and owner when I heard there was to be a food-chain restaurant.’
‘I believe it was before any DA was lodged. I wished to try to persuade them otherwise; in this I was successful.’
He continued, ‘They had quite a few meetings with staff over the question of a possible opening or leasing of some of the park on its edge for a deck to supplement a cafe. They never submitted a DA to do this and the tree would not have blocked the ability to have a deck alongside the park’s edge.’
Cr Richardson went on to defend his decision to intervene, despite the apparent compromise of commercial gain protocol.
‘My meeting focused on my advocating on behalf of my community where I believed a local cafe of some sort would be far more appreciated by the community than a fast-food-chain restaurant franchise.
‘I also met the CEO of the restaurant chain and managed to persuade him to expand his operation elsewhere.
‘I have been pretty open about this’
‘I believe I have been pretty open about this as I publicly led the charge to successfully stop KFC, mainly after managing to convince the owner of that site to stop it going through. I believe most of the Byron community do not want fast-food restaurants in Byron Bay.
‘I believe that though most accept there are some chains already here, resisting new ones is absolutely something they would expect their mayor and councillors to do.’
When asked if it was a good outcome that a bank moved into the new premises, he replied, ‘I don’t think it is either great or terrible, it just is.’
‘However, I don’t believe a solid corporate-branded wall is a good outcome for the park and Council is currently seeking to get a more community-friendly outcome on this matter. I’d obviously like some great local art on the wall, or a screening of trees – which I would presume our community would want us to advocate for also.’