ORCs put to the sword

A POPULAR on-road cafe plan has been canned—for now—following accusations it was tantamout to favouritism.

Vincent city council had trialled the on-road cafe—ORC for short—outside Foam cafe in Leederville, turning a couple of carbays into a mini al fresco area, echoing set ups in San Francisco.

It was so well utilised neighbouring councils came sniffing around to get the skinny on installing their own.

In September the council voted to install another six around town, and put aside $30,000 for the project (although that budget more than doubled to $70,000).

Stuart Lofthouse, who owns Greens & Co across the street, said the Oxford Street ORC was essentially the council giving one business a free kick on the public’s dime.

“No-one in the street has a problem with public open space, they do have a problem with council becoming landlords and giving businesses financial benefit,” he said.

“Rescind it, and start again, and get criteria in place.”

Cr Josh Topelberg agreed: “We can’t be seen as investing in individual businesses at the expense of others.”

Mayor John Carey moved the rescission motion along with deputy Ros Harley and Cr Matt Buckels.

“We need a clear policy direction rather than deciding on the run when we don’t know where we’re going,” Cr Buckels said.

“There’s obviously been some issues in regards to the affordability of it… my main concern is budgetary circumstances,” Cr Harley said.

Foam owner Nicholas Bond was baffled by the way the council had made its decision: “I’m a bit bewildered that no-one’s come to us to ask how it’s operated and whether it’s been a positive or negative effect or what impact it’s had on our business,” he told the council.

While the ORC had been quiet in the winter it attracted up to 600 people on busy summer days.

“For such a small investment the impact has been sensational,” he said, adding he’d spent about $6000 on furniture and umbrellas, and even more staffing it. He said he was happy for the ORC to be moved up the street and he’d gladly let the new operator use the furniture and umbrellas he’d bought.

While Mr Bond said he’d worked hard to make sure everyone on the street could use the ORC, not just his own customers, 50mil cafe owner Debbie Saunders described that as “a load of shit” and said the ORC had been marketed as a Foam-exclusive area that hadn’t benefited other Oxford Street traders.

The council hopes a detailed policy will be ready by February.


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