Coffee shop canned

By Chris Thomson | posted on November 29, 2018

ALBANY’S chamber of commerce has won a Goliath vs David battle against a coffee van operator who had earned the right to run a tiny kiosk on York Street only to be blocked from doing so after a backflip by three City councillors.

At a council meeting on Tuesday night, Deputy Mayor Greg Stocks, his Frederickstown Ward colleague Rebecca Stephens, Kalgan Ward councillors Emma Doughty and Bill Hollingworth, Vancouver Ward Cr Tracy Sleeman and Yakamia Ward Cr Robert Sutton won a 6-5 vote to sink the kiosk.

That was after Crs Stephens, Hollingworth and Sleeman at a committee meeting on November 12 were among 8 councillors to endorse the City-initiated project. At the committee meeting, Anthony Moir, an apology from Tuesday night’s council meeting, was the only councillor to vote against the kiosk.

Barista Chris Saurin had earlier been named as preferred operator, subject to public consultation.

As revealed here, Mr Saurin’s kiosk was to be called ‘Booked’ , reflecting its location beside the

City library and the new Albany visitor centre. It would have opened out to Alison Hartman Gardens (‘Coffee shop booked in’, 30 August).

Earlier on Tuesday night, in a week when the Chamber’s chair resigned (see page 3), Michael Clark, the fourth man to hold the group’s CEO position in less than a year, stepped to a podium in the Council chambers.

Mr Clark said the planned $9000-a-year lease of a 14.25sqm space, coupled with cash the City planned to spend on works, would amount to a $20,000 subsidy to a business directly competing with eight existing retailers.

He urged the Council to vote down the kiosk “for the sake of all existing coffee retailers” on York Street.

During public consultation, only one submission was lodged – by the Chamber. As previously revealed, the submission had asked why the Council would “orchestrate” a coffee shop at the visitor centre “in direct competition to already struggling businesses in York Street” (‘Coffee shop quiz’ , 15 November).

On Tuesday night, David House of the York Street Cafe and owner of Poppies Jacqui Daniel joined Mr Clark in opposing Booked.

In the gallery, Mr Saurin sat silently.

Yesterday he told The Weekender he would seek advice on whether he could appeal the Council decision in the powerful State Administrative Tribunal.

“If any of [the objectors] had bothered to go to the [City-initiated] open viewings [of the kiosk space], they’d have seen it’s the size of a portaloo in there,” he said.

“There’s enough room for a coffee machine and a fridge.”

Mr Saurin has run a coffee van at the Albany Boatshed Markets for the past decade. He was named preferred operator of the kiosk after being the only applicant to express interest in a request-for-proposals process advertised by the City.

“I’ve been operating a lot longer than some of these cafes that are complaining about me,” he said.

“These cafes, they’re all feeling threatened by me; I don’t know why.

“They just need to have a look at their business model to figure out why they’re suffering.”

Mr Saurin said he had spent “lots” of time filling out council forms, and his son had quit a job in preparation to manage Booked.

“It was supposed to be operating in mid-October,” he said.

“And now all this has happened.”

Mr Saurin said he was once a Chamber member, but would “definitely not” join again.

“They’re off my Christmas card list,” he said.

On Tuesday night, Cr Paul Terry declared an interest and did not take part in debate.