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Byron Shire
July 23, 2024

Byron business perspectives in a tough winter 

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After 12 years of operations, the NightOwl Convenience Store on Jonson Street store is closing. Manager, Bradley Schnierer, is a long-time Byron local, and told The Echo the main reason for closure was high rent. ‘Foot traffic is clearly down’, he added. And after 11 years at the job, Bradley is ready for a break before looking for another job.
Photo Jeff ‘Night, Knight Or Nite?’ Dawson

Having traded in Byron Bay for 47 years, Skallyrags owner, Rob Bass, said he’s never seen a winter like this one.

‘It’s been atrocious’, he said, adding he has been closing at 2.30–3pm on some days from a lack of foot traffic.

The locally-owned clothing retail outlet is located at the top end of Byron, opposite the Beach Hotel on Jonson Street.

Mr Bass is well known for his colourful assortment of men’s and women’s casual and beach clothing.

‘Last summer wasn’t too bad, however’, he said.

The issue, he says, is that ‘many local retailers can’t afford to trade because of the high rents’.

Having traded in the town for decades, Mr Bass has a unique insight into Byron’s fluctuating economic climate. 

Mr Bass says he is aware of many shops struggling around the town. 

‘I am lucky because I own my building’, he says. 

‘I just want to make local landlords aware that with high rents, they change the demographics of the town’.

‘I’ve had visitors ask where all the cute little shops have gone? It’s sad.

‘Rain keeps customers away’, he said, ‘there’s more shoppers around with sunnier weather’.

Asked what would improve trading conditions, he immediately says, ‘Events like Splendour in The Grass!’

Cyprus Tree 

Another long-term Byron institution is the Cyprus Tree, a Greek restaurant which is family operated and located in Bay Lane. 

Co-owner, Andrew Kyprianou, says that he hasn’t experienced any recent economic downturn, and that after 28 years, ‘we are still growing’.

And Mr Kyprianou says after all those years, ‘we still love what we do’. 

‘I was told by a customer the other day that their holiday doesn’t start until they have had dinner with us’. 

‘A family was eating with us recently, and we found out that their young children are the third generation to eat at our restaurant!’ 

‘It’s the best thing about this industry’, he said, adding that ‘traditionally it is quiet this time of the year, and it starts to pick up with whale watching’. 

Mila Meli 

Melanie Sainsbury owns children’s clothing shop Mila Meli, which has just relocated across the street to  3/6 Jonson Street, opposite Bella Rosa Gelato.

After 18 years trading in Byron, she agrees with Skallyrags owner Rob Bass that it’s the quietest winter she’s ever seen.

‘Byron tries to remake itself every five or six years’, she says. ‘Generally the feedback I am getting from people who have come here for years, is why are there are so may  big mainstream shops? It’s not what people have come here for. We have lost so many little boutique shops over the years’. 

Ms Sainsbury said the high cost of parking impacts her business, and for small retailers, the high rents are a big factor.

‘The rent became crazy for us before we moved’, she said. ‘Now we pay less, and have more space’. 

‘I’ve loved the move; it was huge after 18 years, but the space is great, and we have a local landlord that actually lives here, and is in touch with what’s happening in our town, this is a huge bonus’.

Numbers down, says Chamber

Byron Chamber president, Matt Williamson, told The Echo, ‘Tourist numbers are down by as much as 40 per cent in Byron from last year, and those that do come are spending less’. 

‘While the big celebrity names and massive house sales might grab the headlines, the reality is those folks are not what drives our local economy. 

‘The businesses in Byron rely on visitor dollars getting spent in their shops, restaurants and bars, and right now that spending is way off the levels needed to sustain them’.

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  1. In a country with thousands of kilometers of coastline and beaches, people from near and far are saying they avoid Byron as it’s too expensive, too crowded, there’s too much traffic and there’s better places to go. Perhaps filling a once idyllic tiny town with millions of people and their cars was not such a good idea. Reducing red tape and giving businesses, who are making money from the crowds, a free ride while 16,000 ratepayers pay some of the highest rates in the country to provide and maintain infrastructure and services for 2.4 million tourists won’t fix it.

    But cramming in more people and more vehicles will surely fix everything.

    • Complete misinformation. BSC Residential rates are comparable with dozens of other LGAs including Lismore, Coffs and Kemsey and less than places like Maitland and Kiama. BS business rates are on the higher side state wide and of course our shire businesses have the burden of high rents to contend with. You also miss the obvious point that those businesses are our community and our community are our businesses.
      “…people from near and far are saying they avoid Byron…”. You need to get off facebook Louise.

  2. So quiet? why? I just found out Airasia has cancelled its malaysia to coolangatta flights except for the month of july and peak summer season from 1 december. Too quiet.. I dont think malaysians and many other Asians can afford to visit australia…. travel, accommodation and eating out costs have risen so much in Australia…

  3. THEY KILLED THE GOOSE WHICH LAID THE GOLDEN EGG !! thanks council , you arrogantly thought that Byron was so popular that you could charge businesses and residents twice the council rates than that of other parts of Australia , You also killed off the airbnb sector ! ( with the help of inflation )
    There are now more than 130 long term rentals available in the Byron shire ( what rental crisis ????? ) without visitors and tourists most of the businesses in the town are finished , bye for now , good luck 2 all !


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