Four year wait for a cuppa on the kerb

Former councillor Reece Harley and cafe owner Michael Ivanoff have waited four years to share a coffee on a converted car bay, and say only a change of guard at Perth council made it possible. Photo by David Bell.

FOUR years after being told it was too expensive and too hard, Crib Lane cafe owner Michael Ivanoff finally has a seated parklet.

The Hay Street trader says a changing of the guard at the City of Perth helped make it happen; in 2016 he applied to convert one car bay into footpath so he could have outdoor seating, thinking it’d benefit his business and add some life to the streetscape. 

Despite Vincent, Bayswater, Fremantle and other councils embracing the idea, Perth staff knocked him back over the cost.

“People at the old management at the City of Perth used the excuse of saying it was going to cost $50,000 to convert one car bay, to fill it up and repave it,” Mr Ivanoff said. 

Reece Harley, a councillor at the time, asked the staff for a breakdown of costs but says he was told to butt out.

“When I started questioning their figures the director came in over the top and shut it all down,” he says.

“They just seemed to pull figures out of the air. If they didn’t like the idea of something, they’d just make it so extraordinarily expensive that it wouldn’t be justifiable.”  

“It was an abrupt ending,” Mr Ivanoff says. “It was pretty brutal the way Reece was told to stay out of it.

“I was flat. I thought: ‘Why bother reapplying?’”

But with Perth’s commissioners putting in some parklets of their own and scrapping charges for alfresco dining, Mr Ivanoff recently had another stab at his parklet idea.

Encouraged

“They let me know everything had been approved to apply for the alfresco, and they encouraged me to apply for a business grant,” he said.

That was to help cover the cost of putting in street furniture. He said his eyes glazed over at the thought of the paperwork and he told them “that’s not my forte” but they encouraged him and he ended up with a $5,000 grant.

“I wouldn’t have been able to furnish it with what I’ve been through in the last three months with Covid. We were down for most of the period, down 70 per cent.”

Mr Harley says Mr Ivanoff’s win rectified a lost opportunity: “This would have had such a positive impact on his business back then. It really has been four years of wasted opportunities right across the city. 

“In terms of the outcome for the city, alfresco areas add street life … in summer you’ve got shade, in winter you’ve got respite from the rain, and you’ve got support for a local small business. It’s a no-brainer.”

Mr Ivanoff says it’s come in the nick of time given corona impacts but “it would have been a big benefit back then”.

With current restrictions, business is still down a third, and he says having the open seating out in the fresh air has made a big difference in getting people to stop for a coffee.

“Straight away. The first week we put it out we had a couple of 25 degree days, it was pretty full out there. A lot of people are wanting, even in winter, to sit outside.”

But he says the cafe trade will continue to be a struggle unless the city returns to its pre-corona foot-traffic levels. 

“Still scared, mate, a lot of us are saying we won’t get back to where we were.”

By DAVID BELL

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