THE Empire Coffee Co. will close the doors of its Honeysuckle Cafe after a long struggle to stay afloat.
Glen Fredericks has confirmed the cafe will close on the most auspicious of days for Star Wars fans, May 4.
“If I can hang on that long,” Mr Fredericks said. “It’s a big Star Wars day, ‘May the fourth be with you’. We will have a big closing weekend.”
Mr Fredericks, who is currently trying to find a new location for the cafe, said there was simply not enough passing foot traffic around Honeysuckle for the business to continue in its current location.
“We have seen a huge drop-off in business. It should have picked up in October or November, but we didn’t see that at all,” he said. “We are into January now … we have had some pretty ordinary weekends, so far.”
The loss of hundreds of car parks after Doma’s Lume apartment development got underway in April 2018 was the biggest single factor for the downturn, Mr Fredericks has claimed.
The re-opening of Hunter Street in September, after light rail construction, had not improved trade. He did not anticipate improvements once the light rail begins operating from next month.
“This place was flooded when those parking spots were available; they were also free on weekends,” Mr Fredericks said.
“We still have hundreds and hundreds of parking spaces, Throsby Car Park is free on weekends and it’s under utilised.”
Throsby Car Park is 1.1km from Mr Fredericks Cafe, but has proved to be a distance too far for customers.
Mr Fredericks had been part of a push to make parking in the Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation (HCCDC) operated Wright Lane car park, behind Newcastle Museum, free at the weekends.
Mr Fredericks said the cafe had put on numerous events, which had done well, but the “lack of parking” in the area had a significant impact on his businesses turn-over.
“When we have events we do well, but you can’t do events week in, week out,” he said.
HCCDC chief executive Michael Cassel said: “Honeysuckle is more accessible than ever before”.
“With more pedestrian, cyclist and vehicular connections between the city and the harbour,” he said. “Paid parking is a tried and true method used to drive a turnover of customers for businesses.”
Mr Fredericks hopes to find a new home for the cafe with “better parking” and “cheaper rent”.
To find out about the closing events: facebook.com/theempirecoffeeco