Beaufort thaw to tackle trade crisis

VINCENT council is set to spend $330,000 on revitalising Beaufort Street after another two long-term businesses there closed in the space of a week.

Clarences bar at 566 Beaufort Street closed May 27 after a decade on the strip, with management saying “due to the greed and ignorance of landlords, another one bites the dust in this once thriving precinct”.

Five Bar announced its closure on May 22 after nine years.

Some of the remaining business owners don’t want to talk publicly about the street’s demise in case it makes things worse, with one saying that “all the negativity is not helping Beaufort Street at all”.

• A new glastnost between the two councils that govern Beaufort Street: Stirling mayor Mark Irwin, Vincent CEO David MacLennan and mayor Emma Cole, and Beaufort Street Network chair Joshua O’Keefe who’s hoping to work with both.

Events

There’s $330,000 for various Beaufort Street events and initiatives in Vincent’s 2019/20 budget, and mayor Emma Cole says Vincent plans to tackle this issue head-on with a new “vacancy project” to bring more diversity to the strip.

The intention is for pop-ups not to compete with existing businesses, but to entice people down to “on-spend”.

“I understand the deep concern that many of our businesses and residents are feeling about what is happening on Beaufort Street,” Ms Cole said.

“We do know that vacancies and a lack of a diverse and unique mix of offerings on Beaufort Street can have a ripple-on effect for surrounding businesses.

“Bricks and mortar independent businesses on high streets are what give our inner city town centres the creative edge over large scale shopping centres.

“The right mix needs to deliver both day and night time trade and be complementary.”

Collaborating

Stirling and Vincent councils are collaborating on a project to work with landlords and curate “an interesting mix of pop-ups and work together on finding longer-term, more permanent solutions to this central problem”, Ms Cole says.

Beaufort Street is split between Vincent and Stirling councils at the border of Walcott Street (sometimes called Perth’s Berlin Wall), which has hampered collaborations in the past.

Beaufort Street Network chair Joshua O’Keefe has focused on extending the network’s activities north of Walcott Street.

He’s optimistic about this new era of the two councils working together: “Finally the wall comes down,” he says.

“Our first job is to outreach to businesses to build a good working relationship so we can deliver a bunch of exciting of the Beaufort Street brand.

“With new funding opportunities, new nooks and crannies to explore and activate and new businesses to work with, we are going to love adding new members to our Beaufort Street business family.”

Stirling mayor Mark Irwin said the three parties had been working on projects individually and hopes collaborating will bolster results.

Along with extending BSN activities north of Walcott St and a digital/social marketing campaign to be launched June 10, he says Stirling’s working on a new draft policy to encourage local businesses to use footpaths for street trading and alfresco dining, and he says “we think this will make a significant difference.

Support

“We all acknowledge there is a real need for support here and we are all committed to working together to provide it and help solve this complex problem, together,” Mr Irwin said.

Other measures in the pipeline include Vincent council spending $75,000 on a ‘light up the strip’ project, starting with illuminating the Beaufort Street sign, and an investigation into a second public space to complement the Mary Street Piazza and have events where people can wander between the two spaces.

Perth MP John Carey says the problems won’t get solved if they’re not addressed: “We need to be frank: It’s a ghost town,” he says, partly blaming unrealistically high rents and a lack of shopping diversity.

“As someone who’s had a long connection with the street—I founded the Beaufort Street Network, I cofounded the festival—there is no doubt that it is at severe crisis point…it is now requiring drastic action.

“We need the property owners to come to the table. We need to look at the rent situation.

“One retailer said to me they’re leaving Beaufort Street to go to King Street because the rent is cheaper.”

by DAVID BELL

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