Fair trade blocked

SMALL businesses in the Hay Street mall’s Plaza Arcade are threatening to stop paying rent because a prolonged redevelopment of the CBD site has decimated their takings.

The arcade was bought by Singaporean firm Starhill Global Reit in 2013, and they’ve blocked it off halfway down for a $6 million reno to provide space for Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo.

When the Voice visited the arcade on a rainy Tuesday arvo, it looked like a dank construction site and rain was leaking through the roof, so most people didn’t go inside.

Business owners are lobbying the arcade’s property manager Colliers International to give them rent relief or release them from their leases, as construction is expected to rumble on until December.

Phone Mart owner Keeta Dufall says his takings are down by two thirds.

“I did, last year, $33,000 in July,” he says.

“This year I’ve done $10,500, and my rent is $12,800.

“It’s the equivalent of you hiring a two-storey house and halfway through the lease the landlord says ‘I’m going to be redoing the garage, kitchen and upstairs, and you’re going to be paying full rent and I’m not going to let you out of the lease’.”

• Keeta Dufall from Phone Mart, Perth Labor MP John Carey, Brad Kirk from Plaza Cameras and 7 Camicie’s Alessandro Prunali. Photo by Steve Grant

Rent strike

Mr Dufall says the business owners are going on a rent strike, refusing to pay until something’s done.

Plaza Cameras has been in the arcade for 32 years.

Owner Bradley Kirk says that during a previous redevelopment of the arcade in 2006 his trade dropped by about 15 per cent, but this time it’s halved.

“Everybody in the arcade is suffering exactly the same problems,” he says.

“There’s no recourse from Colliers, they’re not giving any rent abatements.”

Both businesses have reduced casual staff hours.

Labor Perth MP John Carey says the arcade owner “needs a kick up the backside”.

“It’s absolutely dead here right now,” he says.

“And quite frankly I am sick and tired of small businesses being screwed over.

“These are not franchises, these are independent, small businesses whose families rely on an income from these stores and it’s absolutely disgraceful the way they’ve been treated.

“Colliers needs a kick up the backside [and to be asked] why they’ve not been engaging with the owners.

“I’m saying to Colliers: get your act together, engage properly. They deserve to be allowed to have their leases terminated, or to be given significant rent relief. These businesses are being screwed over, these businesses are suffering. Colliers needs to be held accountable.”

We contacted Colliers’ Perth office, but they didn’t get back to us.

by DAVID BELL

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