Alan Jones to join city businesses as they rally over impact of light rail construction

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2GB broadcaster Alan Jones is hitting the streets to discover the impact the city’s light rail construction is having on local business.

Jones will be joining a meeting of the Light Rail Business and Resident Action Group to shine a light on the effect of ongoing construction.

Whilst NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance are playing down the consequences, business owners are telling another story. Jones is set to attend a meeting run by local business owner and City of Sydney councilor, Angela Vithoulkas, this Wednesday (August 2).

With construction of the light rail facing further delays, many business owners who are already doing it tough are concerned the ongoing disruptions will force them to close their doors. Construction work began on the light rail more than 18 months ago with businesses along George Street and Devonshire Street already severely impacted.

Vithoulkas, whose family has run Vivo Café on George Street for the past 15 years, told Kochie’s Business Builders she knew her café wouldn’t survive the construction phase. She says she has already been told she won’t be issued a new lease as the suggested uplift of the finished light rail means the building owner will be able to double the rent for a new tenant.

“I will have traded through four years of construction, with no rent relief and loss of sales and then I won’t have any physical opportunity to recover,” she says.

Watch this video to see how the Light Rail will traverse the city

Vithoulkas tells Business Builders the situation has left her with no recourse but to go public with her woes.

“I have no tenure, I will have been here for 15-years putting millions of dollars into this business and I won’t be here at the end of the day. And I’m only one story. There are worse stories.

“We are humiliated as business owners. I’m living with a guillotine over my head. I come to work and open up each day, knowing that I’m losing 1000s of dollars.”

As an independent councilor at City of Sydney, Vithoulkas has also been vocal in her criticism of the light rail construction. She lays the blames squarely on the lack of planning to mitigate the impact on business.

Vithoulkas says. “But the state government has decided the small business owners effected by construction are acceptable casualties.”

“We’re not against infrastructure and progress. We are against our lives being destroyed by it when it could have been avoided.”

The outspoken politician says she has done all she can through legitimate channels but now it’s time to take action.

“I have done everything I could the right way, ticking the boxes as an elected civic leader. I’ve tried to get local government involved I’ve approached the small business commissioner who is there to advocate for small business and none of it has worked. Now we are at the sticky point where a class action is on the table.”

Vithoulkas says she is gathering witnesses and documenting the demise of businesses and will be recording tomorrow’s meeting and broadcasting it through Facebook Live.

“The whole world will hear the complaints live, Alan Jones will hear them and he’s not shy about airing them.”

Vithoulkas is quick to stress It’s not just businesses impacted by the light rail. She says the city’s residents are also facing the horrors of constant construction.

“We’re not against infrastructure and progress. We are against our lives being destroyed by it when it could have been avoided.”

In previous broadcasts on his popular talkback show, going as far back as 2013, Alan Jones has suggested the light rail would come at a cost for business owners. Speaking with the then transport minister Gladys Berejiklian Jones described the issues as “a great concern”, saying it would not be plain sailing, for any businesses or residents.

Now Jones will have the opportunity to hear firsthand how small businesses are suffering.

Vithoulkas is glad for the opportunity: “We refuse to be quiet. It’s vitally important for me to continue this fight. This infrastructure is statewide. The next people on the list are Parramatta Light Rail – and that’s going straight down Eat Street.   They will be severely effected…”

Vithoulkas says she will also be launching a Save Small Business, Save Local Communities campaign statewide tomorrow night and the group’s first step will be a class action against light rail.

“I am tired of government running roughshod over the community and united we face a big chance of fighting this…”

The Light Rail Business and Resident Action Group meeting will take place from 6-8pm at Vivo Café, 388 George Street Sydney. RSVP your attendance here. Vithoulkas is also calling for small business owners to complete a short survey to inform state government of their grievances. Complete the survey 

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Cec is a media professional with over fifteen years experience as an editor and journalist on titles as diverse as SX, Better Pictures, Total Rock, fasterlouder, mynikonlife and Fantastic Living. She has spent the past four years working as a news journalist covering all the issues that matter in the political, health and LGBTIQ arena. She is the Senior Writer at Pinstripe Media and a recent convert to the world of small business.

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