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Won’t Somebody Think of the… Small Businesses.

Laura Kebby -

Lifestyle Opinion

I have a question, for all the Novocastrians reading this piece. Where were you during the Supercar weekend, and what was behind your decision to do so? Did you stay and at least attempt to embrace all the hullaballoo that was the Supercars? Were you stuck at work? Or did you, like most people I know, decide to flee the city and get the hell out of town. Now that the dust has finally settled, and the smell of burnt rubber has left my nostrils, it’s time for some #realtalk about the real impact of the Supercars, particularly in relation to small businesses around the race precinct.

I was walking back from work in the mall on the Friday morning, and I swear I could see tumbleweeds making their way across the path. Given that the mall generally isn’t a very busy place (but wait till they gentrify it you say) but Supercar Friday was particularly quiet. Especially since local businesses were promised the chance to make back the revenue they lost due to the countless (and annoying) construction schedule. “Think of the foot traffic” officials said proudly, all the tourists with money to burn and time to burn it. To that… I call bullshit.

Now there is a bit of a confusion as to who exactly was at fault, but what was happening on that fateful Friday, is the redirection of pedestrian foot traffic away from the mall, despite there being a race precinct entry point at the very beginning. Something to do with bottlenecking apparently. But I call bullshit on that as well. Whatever it was, and whoever was at fault, the bottom line is, the mall was quieter than ever. Because businesses didn’t even have the normal influx of dedicated regulars buying their flowers, books, the paper, coffee etc. Owners and operators were warning their regulars to stay away over the supercar period, not that they needed to be told twice.

In fact the Friday was so unbelievably quiet, many businesses made the executive decision to shut their doors for the entire weekend. It seemed it wasn’t even worth the hassle to navigate the crowds, the noise, the construction, the traffic redirection to not even be in a position to turn a great trade for the day, or at least even be on par with what they would usually make over a weekend. As the day dragged on, more and more small businesses took to social media to inform customers they would be closing over the weekend. Dare I even mention the fact that Oma’s Kitchen closed back in what June was it? Followed by Good Brother, Momos, Press Book House and Persian Place, on the Saturday of the race. I remember someone saying this was meant to be the biggest trading weekend of the year, didn’t quite pan out that way I guess.

I am honestly trying to be positive about the Supercars, I really am. But when small businesses are forced to close their doors, what are we left with? A billion dollar race track (not the exact figure, I write words not maths), half a park, hearing damage, being crowned the Air BnB capital of the world and oh yeah, small businesses haemorrhaging money because punters want pies, chips and overpriced mid strength beer. Until next year folks!

If it's on in Newcastle, it's on Newcastle Live

Comments 10

  1. I went to Tuncurry for 3 days to see friends, it was lovely and peaceful! Of course small businesses were going to suffer…..these enthusiasts are here for cars not shopping. Supercars should compensate all small businesses that lost over their time here! As for council bullshit…..don’t get me started…😡😡

  2. Perhaps it’s short sighted to measure the success of this event on this one weekend. I would be interested to see how many people make a decision to come to Newcastle for a holiday as a result of seeing it presented in such a positive light. Your weekend of poor trade may turn out to be the only respite you get from hoards to tourists wanting to call Newcastle home for thier holidays… Only time will tell

  3. Thank you Laura, but I feel after taking to social media many times to support the cause of the East Enders & businesses, and being labelled an entitled whinging elitist & of yesterday, one of the 3 most hated people in Newcastle, nobody actually cares for what has happened. I too am not opposed to V8 car races and nor are those who live in the East End but what has happened in the last 9 months is truly despicable and utterly irresponsible behaviour by Newcastle City Council and the NSW Government. The fact that for the next four years there is going to be a set up time of approximately 8-9 weeks and a 3-4 week dismantle time will also keep people away. I know, I too stayed away. I have friends who have loved shopping in the Mall but they also stayed away. Very bad decision for business.
    The crowds who go to the Supercar events are intent on getting there, the quickest way possible, and because it is the type of event that is all consuming, they leave at the end of the day and get to their destination in the same manner, as quickly as possible – they would be exhausted. It is never going to work for the businesses in the CBD, no matter how much redirection of the masses.
    I have spoken to many elderly residents who feel that have been abandoned and abused by their council and to suggest they leave their homes is not realistic nor should it even be suggested.
    There must to be an inquiry into this event and the total lack of transparency as to costs and outcomes. There have been all sorts of smoke screens put out there to blindside what has actually gone on.
    Supercars is an organisation that appeals to a certain demographic and I don’t think they have realised that the demographics of inner Newcastle has actually changed in the past decade. I have witnessed this change and it has been lovely to see the gradual growth of small shop and cafe culture in inner Newcastle but unfortunately this event will set that back decades.
    The constant cry of the Supercar supporters is that nothing ever happens in Newcastle. I beg to differ. The people who make those statements are usually from out of town and have little interest in the music, theatre or the arts, those activities that support the social fabric of a vibrant city.
    So as of this time in Newcastle, it is no longer a Smart City and it is certainly not a happy city.

  4. I don’t normally follow any type of car racing, however I was so proud Newcastle was apart of this event and really enjoyed watching it.
    You say you are honestly trying to be positive, however nothing that you have written would suggest this.
    Newcastle was shown in a different light to the rest of the world that weekend and I can only see it as being a positive thing.

  5. I was working (not far from the track mind you) but most people I know stayed away thanks to the nightmare that is Newcastle right now, mostly because of the light rail disaster not because of the supercars. Nobody wanted to try and navigate the streets they don’t even want to navigate on a normal weekend. Look to NCC for answers, it’s not the supercars’ fault.

  6. As a small business Hunter Street victim of Supercars and all the hype, your comments reverberate what was a financial disaster. And all the food that had to be thrown out! What an absolute waste and a NCC embarrassment. We and every small business we have talked too so far have no intention of opening next year so the tourists will only have a ghost town of memories to share on their return home. That’s if we even survive till then as it’s not just the Supercars construction and non-weekend that has caused financial downturns of up to 40% this year but it’s the closure of Hunter Street that’s been the death knell. Just look at the empty shopfronts that stretch from Auckland Street to Newcastle East that weren’t empty this time last year. Progress says NCC. Humbug!

  7. We had no choice but to close our yoga stuido ( Yoga For All ) and because we didn’t want to let our loyal students down we hired another space out of town. This meant we paid double rent and yes, haemorrhaged money that we didn’t really have.
    On top of that I contacted SuperCars in the lead up to the event to see if they could hire our space for storage or something similar. They promised they would be in touch ASAP. I’m still waiting to hear from them 😔
    I’m not a SuperCars supporter in anyway 💩💩

  8. Wasn’t just the east end either, markettown, Darby st and the whole honeysuckle precinct was a ghost town on Friday as all the locals took the day off work or left for the weekend.

    I left on Friday along with anyone else I knew who lived in the east end.

    From what I heard it was a very quiet weekend for normally busy businesses across town unless you were in the event area.

    And I don’t think many people had much success renting out homes either. For those luckily enough to own their homes and legally and practically, be able to, there were still 18 places advertised on Airbnb the weekend of the event that weren’t rented out.

  9. I was unable to leave the Newcastle East race precinct at my leisure despite being a resident pass holder, I was I needed to line up with patrons to leave and enter the track, making it impossible to do my regular mall trips to part with my money. The roads are no unsafe with no traffic calming devices etc, and idiots driving at high speeds everywhere. I am actually are car racing enthusiast, and I have never watched a race on TV and thought oh gee I really want to go to that place on holidays.

  10. Yep I am another small business in Hunter Street, Darby to Crown Sts block, who was extremely disappointed by the lack of trade over the 3 day event. Sales were way below normal. Yes there were people everywhere, but they didn’t want to stop and interact. So as far as a bonus for city traders……..council really got that one wrong…… Just another kick in the guts for us.

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