Coffs city centre is coming back to life
THE smell of coffee and confidence is returning to our city's business district.
Last month as the government forced closures of small businesses such as gyms, hotels, beauticians, hairdressers, cafes and dine-in restaurants, the CBD fell quiet. With the flattening of the Covid-19 curve, talk is now turning to how we move forward.
"I've been having a coffee in the city square every day," said Troy Mitchell Director, LJ Hooker Commercial Coffs Harbour.
"A month ago, very few people were to be seen, but now there's a lot more people coming to get coffee and in the CBD - all still social distancing, but there are more people about.
"When the restrictions came in, a lot of other retailers elected to close because of health reasons.
"What we see now is a small number of retailers beginning to open and this will start to gather momentum as we transition.
"A lot has changed in the past month. Back then people were fearing we'd all catch the coronavirus."
Conversations about toilet paper and hoarding are being replaced with discussions about the easing of restrictions and what types of assistance are available.
"We have had 130 requests for rental relief and negotiated about 100 in the past week and a half and the common theme in many of these negotiations is not one of negativity," Mr Mitchell said.
"The majority of those requests have been assisted with a 50% rent reduction for April and May and for that to be reassessed on June 1.
"With the State Government proposing to remove some of the restrictions by the end of this month and also the Federal Government proposing to remove some restrictions by the middle of May, it is generating a much different atmosphere from a month ago."
The LJ Hooker Commercial office is located in the heart of the CBD with a window on Harbour Dr.
"We've been here in the office and trading every day throughout the crisis and now we're seeing shops are starting to re-open," he said.
"The mandatory code of conduct for commercial leases state: 'the burden of forced shop closure should be equally shared between the business owner and property owner' and we're finding that's happening in Harbour Dr. It's property owners and business owners sharing the burden together.
"The small business operator can access the State Government's $10,000 grant and the Federal Government job package.
"The CBD business owner can have their special levy for CBD improvements waived on their council rates and the State Government has reduced land tax."
As the old saying goes, 'it won't happen overnight but it will happen'.
"Businesses don't go from fully closed to fully operational, there will be a transition period where they may operate part time or on a restricted basis," Mr Mitchell said.
"But as businesses re-open and the volume of people visiting the CBD increases, so will the number of businesses be returning to regular trading.
"I'm quietly confident that by the end of May we will see a big difference in the CBD."