Jim Murphy Cellars’ bid to open a liquor store at the Yarralumla Shops is hard to swallow for IGA/Local Liquor Supermarket owner Yvonne Dourdoulakis, not just because she will have a rival next door but because she fears for the future of the struggling suburban shopping centre.
Jim Murphy Cellars has applied to ACT Liquor for an off premises liquor licence for 25 Bentham Street, which used to house the post office until it closed in March. It plans to operate every day from 7 am to 11 pm.
Ms Dourdoulakis, who with her husband has run the IGA since 2004, says if the licence was granted it could see the beginning of the end for the Yarralumla Shops, which has seen a number of businesses close in recent times and needs new ventures to complement the ones already there.
“I obviously don’t want a liquor store next to me but I’m looking at the big picture of what makes local shopping centres survive,” said the businesswoman, who also owns with her siblings many of the properties at the Ainslie Shops.
“We are firm believers that the shops within shopping centres need to complement each other, not fight against each other, that’s when you get closures. They’re meant to be businesses that work well together.”
She says local residents and other businesses also don’t want another liquor store there but would prefer something like a bakery, which the centre lost a couple of years ago.
They are also concerned about the impact a liquor store opening until late at night will have on crime and behaviour in the community, which already has a high rate of break-ins and robberies.
As well as the Local Liquor outlet, there are already three on-premises liquor licences at restaurants in the centre, and another liquor store would be too many.
“How many liquor licences do you really need in one centre?” Ms Dourdoulakis said. “It’s a very small shopping centre.”
She had told the owner of the premises that she would be willing to take the lease and sub-let it to a business to ensure a right fit for the shops but he was confident of being granted the licence.
“I know a number of submissions, by residents and other businesses owners, have been sent to ACT Liquor opposing the granting of the liquor license, but I’m also afraid they may not be taken into full consideration before a decision is made,” Ms Dourdoulakis said.
Yarralumla Residents Association president Mike Lewis said the community organisation did not have a position on the application but members had lodged objections as individuals.
The Association had been concerned for some time at the number of empty premises at the shops and Mr Lewis said the Government should consider penalties for landlords sitting on tenancies, similar to those used to deter land banking.
Ms Dourdoulakis operated the post office business for eight years before selling it in 2014, and has just completed a $100,000 refurbishment to take it back to serve the Yarralumla community.
“It was a headache I didn’t really want but it needed to be done,” she said.
She feared there would be more shops closing in Yarralumla. “To see local shopping centres falling apart is quite a sad thing,” she said.
The key issues contributing to their decline were high commercial rates and rents. Some landowners were also happy to leave premises empty if they could not achieve the rents they wanted.
The consultation period for the application closes on 15 May. For more information go here.