Sydney City Council will attempt to speed up construction work on Oxford Street after desperate business owners said the disruptions were killing their shops and caf?

The construction, part of Oxford Street’s multi-million dollar upgrade, was taking too long and driving customers out of the area, according to business owners at a rowdy community forum organised by council and attended by about 50 people on Tuesday.

Darlinghurst Business Partner-ship director Tony Melhem, from Gloria Jeans Coffee, said some owners had experienced a 60 percent drop in business since the construction began late last year, while others hadn’t survived.

People are not coming to the area. We are suffering immensely, he said.

He asked council for a rescue package for all affected business on the street. Melhem said it was only fair as council had subsidised tenants in council-owned buildings on the strip with a 50 percent reduction in rent: We want the same deal for everyone. That is just and fair.

Robert Tait from The Pop Shop said the upgrade was a disaster for the shopkeepers.

It means imminent bankruptcy for everyone here. We are angry people. We are facing the end of our village, Tait said.

At one point people in the crowd started shouting we won’t survive and we won’t be here.

The forum was told council could not compensate businesses, but Deputy Lord Mayor John McInerney said the situation obviously needed to be reviewed.

By the end of the meeting, council resolved to consider speeding up the work by asking construction company Belmadar to put on extra staff to continue working until 10:30pm.

Council promised to send a letter to landlords on the street asking them to reduce rent for businesses, and it also agreed to support a promotional campaign aimed at getting customers back onto Oxford Street during the road works.

Construction on Oxford Street’s south side, which is heavily populated with gay bars and caf? will begin in August and will not be completed until early next year.

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