Braddon traders say Lonsdale Street’s 9 pm closure during Summernats last year was “a disaster” for them, and that while this year’s 10 pm closure on the busiest weekend nights is an improvement, the government is still risking significant damage to local businesses and staff.
The government confirmed before Christmas that it would be leaving Lonsdale Street open to traffic until 10 pm on the Friday and Saturday nights of Summernats 2019. But the busy restaurant and entertainment precinct between Cooyong Street and Girrahween Street will then be closed until 1 am on Friday, 4 January and Saturday, 5 January.
Last year the government had initially intended to close the street to traffic from 6 pm over the same weekend period, but amended their plans after a petition with 3500 signatures was presented to them.
Car enthusiasts fear the long-established tradition of cruising Lonsdale St before crowds of onlookers is threatened by the decision. They’ve been joined by members of the Braddon United Retailers & Traders Association (BURT), who rely on the Summernats boost during Canberra’s quietest trading period.
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The group are calling for a formal consultation process with the ACT Government, ACT Police and Summernats organisers to discuss closures and ensure sufficient notice is given, and say that the ongoing lack of communication with residents and businesses shows things must change.
Spokesman Kel Watt said BURT welcomed sensible action on safety, noise and speed impacting local residents. But he said these could be managed without being heavy-handed about singling out Summernats, while other events also run late into the night.
“BURT has written to Access Canberra, Summernats organisers and ACT Policing to ask for a meeting to better plan road closures and ensure businesses are warned well ahead of time. January trading is notoriously slow in Canberra. Summernats represents a lifeline for many businesses that would otherwise risk going under,” he said.
Local businesses fear that Braddon will lose trade from interstate visitors, but that Canberrans will also be deterred from a night out in the restaurant and bar district. BURT suggests that those who don’t enjoy the cruising tradition should probably dine elsewhere, but adds that the four days of Summernats can make or break January balance sheets.
“Last year, the sudden and unexpected announcement gave businesses no time to organise or respond. This year, a Christmas time announcement came too late for many businesses and staff to plan ahead properly,” Mr Watt said.
“Businesses and residents moved into the area knowing full well what activities and life are like in Braddon, including the last three decades of annual Summernats migration. Kicking off 2019 with another communication failure doesn’t make for a very happy New Year.”
Do you think that Lonsdale Street should be closed to traffic to protect residents?