13 July 2016

Creating a Cafe: The build is over ... almost!

| Sophia Carlini
Join the conversation

So my dad had left, it was now close to the end of December and we were in a mad scramble trying to book in our well-organized mess of tradies. Most tradesmen were kind enough to squeeze us into their busy schedule before the Christmas break; most of them had been contracted since the very beginning and new that we had been waiting patiently for our builder for approximately 4 months. For those contractors who couldn’t book us in before Christmas, they made sure they had booked us for their very first day back at work in 2016. It was very much appreciated.

Works commenced again around the second week of January, with some of the finishing touches starting to go in around the construction; we had lights, our logo and our machine ready to go by the 4th week of January. We were ready to open, and just had to get through a final health inspection to give us the A-OK.


The way a health inspection works is that the inspector comes out when you are completely set up and ready to trade; they look for all the bits and pieces on their check list and either approve or deny your application. If you are denied, you have a certain number of days to remedy the issues. If you are approved you can trade immediately. We couldn’t see any reasons as to why we would be denied, after all we had not taken any short cuts and paid all sorts of tradies for their expertise. We were pretty sure of ourselves, so we went ahead and announced an opening date of 1 February 2016 on social media. Our thinking was that this would leave enough time to remedy any small issues, if there were any.

So the day of our inspection came around and I left Mike to be there, as I had to be at work. Shortly after our scheduled appointment, Mike rang me to advise that we had not been approved to open, because the doors we had put on to close our shop at night did not meet the health requirements. I’m just going to put it out there; I was fuming!


Our doors had cost us thousands of dollars. We had hired a specialist door company with expertise in the making and installation of shop doors to do the job. At installation I had called the owner to say that Mike and I had some concerns about how far the doors could be pulled open when they were closed (they had quite a large gap underneath them). I was immediately dismissed and told that the doors were fine. At the time I left it alone because to be honest, who am I? I know nothing about the installation of doors; that’s why we hired a specialist.

Anyways, so now the doors were proving to be a real problem and I had to get it fixed ASAP. It was now the only thing keeping us from trading.

Just like every relationship, each couple plays different roles. In our relationship, whenever there is a difficult conversation or complex email to be written, it’s on me. Mike is a lover and hates conflict, whereas I am more about what is right. If someone does the wrong thing by me, then hell yeah! I will pursue a fair remedy; I am not afraid to have a stern conversation with someone if it’s needed. Yeah! I’ve made a few enemies, but I’m running a business, something that I have worked super hard to achieve and I am not going to let somebody take me for a ride. It’s funny because some people (usually other business owners) understand this mentality that I have, and others just label me as aggressive. It’s a shame that intelligent women with passion are confused for being aggressive.

So I now had to have another conversation with the door company and explain that the doors, which were installed, were no longer suitable. I explained that I wanted a remedy immediately.

The business stuffed me around for some time; on multiple occasions I was told someone would be out to the shop at a particular time to have a look and try and fix the issue. On all of those occasions, no one showed up, or I waited over an hour and had to call the business to chase someone down. I was fed up to say the least.

Finally it was decided that the doors were not suitable and needed to be replaced. I advised the door business that I believed the remedy was on them, as they had not applied due care and skill when helping Mike and I select the doors, when ensuring the doors would fit, as well as ensuring that they would be suitable for a café. As I said, we had hired an expert for this reason. Of course the business denied any responsibility and wanted us to pay another $10,000 for a new set of doors.

For those of you who don’t know about your consumer rights, I suggest that you read up on them. The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) is very important legislation that every consumer should understand because, if you ever get yourself into a predicament like this, it may be just the thing to help you.

After the business refused to help me, I wrote them a letter of demand, outlining the areas of the ACL that applied to my situation, how I thought the business was at fault, and then demanded a remedy. I did go as far as to threaten legal action, however, it wasn’t a threat, I honestly believed I was in the right and would have taken it that far if I needed too.

There’s obviously a lot more detail to this story, so I’ve tried to break it down to the simplest version. Long story short; after many back and forth phone calls and emails, the business agreed to install new doors that would be appropriate and pre-approved by ACT Health. It was going to take two weeks and I had agreed to pay the difference in price for the better doors, after all, it was only fair and that is all I was ever after.

Two weeks later the doors were due to be installed. I was waiting for a phone call from the owner to get access to the shop front. When I didn’t hear from him, I drove past the shop to see what was going on; he was there installing the doors. At the time I didn’t think anything of it, I had just assumed he had let himself in by taking the old doors off and didn’t need to call me for access. Hours later, I still had not heard anything and was starting to worry, when I got a text message which said that the owner had the keys to the shop and would not be handing them over until full payment was received.

I was hysterical, the guy had actually locked me out of my own business, despite the agreement we had made! I called my local police station to see what could be done; surely locking someone out of their own business is illegal?! The policeman that I spoke to was very empathetic but he was unable to help me and noted that I would need to pursue legal action after the weekend. This was actually the very last thing I needed.

I tried to contact the owner multiple times, but he ignored my phone calls. I ended up sending a text message explaining that I needed the keys ASAP and that I was quite happy to pay the difference, as agreed and could even bank transfer in front of him, if he wished. He may have realized at this point that I wasn’t mucking around and I was very serious about pursuing legal action. I got a return message to say he would be at the shop in 5 minutes and to meet him there.

Finally, after all of that, the doors were sorted and we were ready for our final health inspection on the Monday, which we passed, with no problems at all. We were now ready to trade.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

The business is for sale already? What happened?

Well Sophia you have certainly been put to the test. Trust it all works out well for the future.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.