The landmark former Gowings shopfront on Oxford Street, left vacant for 18 months, will finally have a new occupant.
But the decision to lease it to a fast food outlet has angered local retailers who will fight the decision.
Signage for the Bite Me burger chain went up at the City of Sydney-owned site at the weekend. The chain has a store further up Oxford Street in Paddington and another in Bondi.
Darlinghurst Business Partnership president Andrew Duckmanton has since written to Lord Mayor Clover Moore calling the decision “atrocious and abysmal”.
“It is completely unfathomable why Oxford Street would need or want another fast food store when there is an oversupply of pizza, late night junk food and unhealthy food purveyors on the street already,” Duckmanton said.
A City of Sydney spokesman said the operator was a restaurant, not a high-turnover takeaway operation, and would appeal to patrons in the area with a diverse and gourmet product.
Moore recently advised concerned local retailers that most applications for the Gowings site proposed bar or hotel facilities.
The council rejected those options because of community concern about the impact on Oxford Street’s daytime economy and vitality.
The Bookshop Darlinghurst owner Les McDonald had approached the City about moving to the site, but was told only food or fashion would be acceptable.
“The area doesn’t necessarily need gay businesses, but it does need more diversity, something that would draw people to the area,” McDonald said.
“The Bookshop would have been fantastic; we trade late, we bring people to the area, but it was clear they’d already made up their mind.”
Aussie Boys owner Ken Holmes said the Darlinghurst Business Partnership and the Oxford Street Commercial and Retail Association would fight the City’s decision.
“If this goes ahead it will come back to bite Clover,” Holmes said. “They stick a sign on the window saying they want a fashion shop, but there aren’t many fashion traders who can afford to pay the rent they’re asking.
“They should be going to Myer and inviting them to come to Oxford Street with a five-year rent-free period, and put in a young fashion shop.”
Bite Me did not respond by print time.
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