What’s happening to restaurants on the Beaufort Street strip?

thewest.com.au

The once lively Beaufort Street strip in Mt Lawley and Highgate is in crisis, with high rents and too many franchises blamed for driving businesses out and threatening to send it the way of Subiaco.

Former critics’ favourite Cantina 663 closed on Monday and seafood restaurant The Red Cray is set to close after final service tonight.

They join a long list of restaurants ranging from Greek and gelato to Korean and Japanese that have shut in the past six to 12 months, with rumours of more closures to come.

Peaky Bodega, part-owned by former Dockers captain Peter Bell, is among the venues to close, but new owners are believed to be reopening the venue as a cafe/bar. Bell confirmed to The Weekend West the business had been sold but did not elaborate. “We have sold the business and wish the new owner all the very best,” he said.

A sign of the times: Property for lease on Beaufort Street in Mount Lawley.
A sign of the times: Property for lease on Beaufort Street in Mount Lawley.Picture: Nic Ellis.

From March 11, businesses will also have to deal with a schedule of works to replace a 2km stretch of 100-year-old water main between Roe Street and Chelmsford Road, starting from Newcastle Street to Bulwer Street.

“Beaufort Street, you only have to walk down the street to see it is going through tough times,” Labor MLA for Perth and former City of Vincent mayor John Carey said.

“I am not trying to antagonise anyone here, but the feedback I get from small businesses who have left is that the property owners in that street have asked for too much money and … that has driven people out,” he said.

“If you lose that important mix of retail and cafes and restaurants, you lose the quality of independent small business.

Labor MLA for Perth and former City of Vincent mayor John Carey says Beaufort street is facing a crisis.
Labor MLA for Perth and former City of Vincent mayor John Carey says Beaufort street is facing a crisis.Picture: Nic Ellis.

“Why is Leederville working and Beaufort Street isn’t? Is Beaufort Street facing a mini-crisis? I think it is, absolutely.” Mr Carey said he understood Beaufort Street Network had been doing everything it could to work with local businesses.

“At the end of the day … when it is being dominated by franchises and property owners wanting the maximum dollar that’s hard to get around,” he said.

“This is terrible to say but some people are calling it the new Subiaco.”

Labor MLA for Mt Lawley Simon Millman said if people loved a local business they needed to support it. “It sounds cliched but you have to put your money where your mouth is,” he said.

The Beaufort Street Network is soon to release a plan for the area focused on action, advocacy and promotion. Chairman Joshua O’Keefe said the group would talk to the cities of Stirling and Vincent, the Property Council and neighbouring group Inglewood on Beaufort.

“We need to band together to figure out what’s best for our town centres as well as understanding what businesses need from us,” he said.

Chef-restaurateur Russell Blaikie thinks what is happening on Beaufort Street, where he has operated Must Winebar in Highgate since 2001, reflects what is happening across the city.

“If I wanted to put a number on it, if Joe and his partner were going out for Friday night drinks five years ago, they had $100 cash in their pocket ready to throw on the bar,” he said. “Now they have probably got $60 cash to throw on the bar.”

Must has launched a successful series of good-value, local wine and food nights to keep customers coming.

“If you wait you die,” Blaikie said. “Businesses need to be innovative, they need to show incredibly good value for money, they are the key words.”

He agreed high rents were a big problem. “We had a rental determination in 2018 and we secured a 20 per cent rent reduction,” Blaikie said.

“Any hospitality operator who isn’t securing a reduction of between 20 and 40 per cent of their rent probably needs to give me a call.”

He said things were as bad as he had seen them but that it was a cycle from which businesses would emerge.

Alex O’Reilly, manager of Five Bar, said people were no longer noticing Beaufort Street as a place to eat and drink.

City of Vincent mayor Emma Cole said the council would be looking to fund additional projects that helped activate Beaufort Street and was contacting everyone who had a stake in its success.

“We’re really keen to speak with landowners about how we can work together to improve vacancy rates and bring the buzz back,” she said.

Some restaurant owners said it was less about competition and more about getting people off the couch, away from Uber Eats and back into their venues.

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