Honeysuckle businesses feel the parking pinch

HONEYSUCKLE businesses are now feeling the sting from the disruption of the “revitalisation” of Newcastle. 

The loss of car parks after Doma’s Lume apartment development got underway in April, along with the construction of light rail, has seen trade drop off across the precinct, some Honeysuckle businesses are reporting. 

Owner of the Empire Coffee Co Glen Fredericks is giving it a “red hot go” to stay afloat while the city undergoes its transformation, but said Hunter Development Corporation (HDC) should be doing more to assist Honeysuckle businesses which are struggling. 

Mr Fredericks claims his business has seen a 40 per cent decline in turnover since about this time last year. He attributes some of the downturn to light rail construction.

More recently, Doma’s apartment development on what had been a temporary car park on Honeysuckle Drive has seen the loss of 250 parks since April. 

“That’s when businesses started to struggle,” Mr Fredericks said. “There’s no car parks, people say ‘I’m not going in there. People don’t want to fight for car spaces.” 

Despite holding weekly events to attract people to his Star Wars themed cafe, Mr Fredericks has had to cut back on staff. 

Mr Fredericks said a request to make the HDC operated Wright Lane car park, behind the Newcastle Museum, free was declined. 

On June, Tuff’n’Up Boxing, located across the road from the Newcastle Interchange closed its doors after 20 years in business, citing light rail construction and parking losses. 

Also in June, Silo, a Honeysuckle restaurant, announced it would close its doors on Mondays and Tuesdays due to “light rail construction”. 

The Hog’s Breath Cafe told Fairfax Media its trade was also suffering. 

“We felt it with the closure of the car park and all the constant detours and road closures,” manager Dean Grant said. 

“Up until the second week in April we were trending 20 per cent up, now we are 20 per cent down.” 

Another business, which did not want to be named, said while its business had not been impacted, “generally trade is down across the Honeysuckle.” 

The State Member for Newcastle Tim Crakanthorp said he agreed free parking in the Wright Lane car park could potentially help businesses in Honeysuckle and had made representation to HDC about this. 

However, Mr Crakanthorp said HDC told him businesses should do more to attract people into Honeysuckle, and free parking was not a solution. 

HDC responded to questions put to it by Fairfax Media saying there was already free weekend parking available at Throsby car park, pointing out it remains “predominately empty”. 

The car park is located about 700m from Honeysuckle. 

“Paid parking is a tried and true method used to drive a turnover of customers for businesses, which is why HDC opened several sites as temporary parking options,” HDC chief executive Michael Cassel said. 

“As the city continues to transform, the creation of jobs and enhanced economic growth will require business to examine their business models to ensure they remain current; this is why the Small Business Commissioner has offered to work with all Newcastle CBD businesses.”

Mr Cassel said HDC had spent more than $1 million over seven years on “the activation and promotion of Honeysuckle”.

He pointed to the Revitalising Newcastle Facebook page, which has over 17,000 followers. It has been used to “showcase innovative businesses amending or enhancing their business models to help combat the challenges of construction disruption”.

Mr Cassel said he appreciated the disruption was challenging on multiple fronts, but pointed out that there are a “record number construction workers in and around the precinct”.

“This is a captive audience that we would encourage businesses to maximise,” he said.