Most residents of Newport would have come to know Yan Yan & Alex Li who for the last sixteen years have run the Newport Patisserie. At the end of this September the Patisserie was forced to close from the cost pressures of rent increases and the passing on of costs from the landlord with the ultimate ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ being the increased outside dining charges from Northern Beaches Council of app 56% since the prior June.

While the closure of this 16-plus years business is a loss to our village in itself, SYMBOLICALLY it is an even greater loss. The Chinese immigrant family involved are not typical of the recent, rich arrivals creating the golden ghetto in Chatswood. This couple arrived following the Tiananmen Square period. The husband forewent his Chinese profession (architecture) and took an apprentice position in a Rocks patisserie. After a decade there, the couple started the business they have just closed. They integrated with our local community. They took out a mortgage and bought a home in Mona Vale – with a ten minute commute to their place of work. They have raised two “Aussies”, both of them educated at Northern Beaches state schools. The daughter is within a year of completing her degree, majoring in international relations at UNSW and as well as being fluent in her native English and her family Mandarin she is now also proficient in Spanish. The son will sit his HSC next year.

A number of NRA members were honoured to be some of the 100 plus guests, invited for their long-term patronage of this business, to share in a farewell and enjoying the last produce of their ovens. In departing, the main sentiment expressed by the couple was that they would miss the daily contact with this “family”, their natural family being back in China. This immigrant family represent so much of what we claim to be striving for in our objectives for the village of Newport.

Taking the matter up with Council

One of our committee members on behalf of the NRA has taken the outdoor dining fee increases up with council since the demise of the Patisserie and reminded council that we had previously objected to the increases at council budget time telling council they should be encouraging small businesses, not putting impediments in front of them.

The most disturbing aspect of the NBC response is this, embodied in their answer: “the increases reflects the market valuation price determined by the independent valuer” plus “We do not have authority to change the charges as they are set . . .” This is the kind of attitude to which we’ve become accustomed in recent years from State government but when it comes from Council it begs the question: Why do we have Local Government? We may be going through a phase where the State is diminishing the areas of influence of Local Government but surely the price for allowing a cafe or restaurant to extend its service to the community, into existing community space administered by the Council, is an obvious area for Council to set prices with the greater community good as the primary influence?

Hopefully the NBC can review its attitudes and procedures so it is that little bit easier for such contributors to succeed, rather than to withdraw.