Inner West Independent

Commercial rent hikes frustrate Balmain businesses

By RACHEL CLARK

The increase in commercial rent along Balmain’s infamous Darling Street is an ongoing issue that is potentially leading to the loss of a vibrant community of small businesses.

In recent years, the turnover of business along Darling Street in Balmain has been quite high, with a once-vibrant street filled with small businesses now unable to sustain long term residency.

Joanne, the owner of the Little Treasure Chest toy store started her business only 18 months ago, which has been a long-time dream of hers. The rent for the store has already begun to rise and she’s starting to feel the effects.

“I work six days a week and can’t employ any staff, some days I even struggle to pay myself. Luckily job keeper has been a great help,” she says.

Owners from various stores state similar factors contributing to impact upon their storefronts.

These factors include rent contracts having an average increase of 3-4% each year written into them, a rise in e-commerce, and landlords owning full blocks of buildings and preferring to keep them vacant so property value remains high.

“Rents are high because they can,” says Telma, owner of Infancy.

She went on to explain that they have been lucky to be supported by the community around them, but landlords aren’t as considerate for small businesses, especially with the rise of e-commerce.

“You see a lot of businesses close down and it’s not good for the community. It’s a poor reflection upon the community, especially for a high street,” says Joanne.

Uncertain times for small business

Small businesses are working in uncertain times in Australia as the impacts of the bushfires, a pandemic, and now a recession have caused multiple blows to the economy, with small businesses right at the bottom.

Increases in commercial rent are not helping these small businesses survive along Darling Street.

Jamie Parker MP, Member for Balmain said, “early on in the pandemic I worked hard towards helping the introduction of rules at the state government level to make it easier on small business to negotiate rent reductions and placed a ban on commercial evictions until the end of this year.”

He continues on to call for the government to further support small businesses during this time, rather than turning off the tap in January 2021 as business owners will face additional challenges going into the future.

Bikendra Shrestha the owner of local café, Grind and Grit, says that his business has only been open for about a year but he has lived in the area for many years prior and witnessed businesses come and go.

Recognising COVID-19 has taken a further toll on an already difficult situation, there is community support with local clientele and e-commerce for those through apps and websites has allowed businesses to keep their revenue stream.

“Uber Eats has been the saving grace throughout COVID. Without Uber Eats, Menulog and Deliveroo, we would be long gone by now,” says Bikendra.

Local support from the community is essential for these businesses to remain alive along the high street.

“It’s important for all of us to remember to shop local this holiday season because the businesses that bring so much to our community need our support now more than ever,” says Jamie Parker.

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