Duo Deli Restaurant in Perth
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Paula talks about her upset at the the closure of two great independents.

Support Your City Centre!

Paula talks about her upset at the the closure of two great independents.

Hello Everyone!

What can I say – I’ve been shocking at keeping up with my blogging. Things have been so busy with us! Denny has decided to move to Glasgow and so I’m back running between both restaurants. Thankfully, Roxanne has finished Uni for summer so she’s home in Perth and now picking up some of my slack. Thank goodness for children that grew up in the trade – she’s almost as good at it as me ;-)

But then, that’s just the way of it when you’re a business owner – you take the rough with the smooth and when you need to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in that’s exactly what you do. This is just one of the reasons I have been so upset to hear about The Cracked T-Pot over the road from us, Indigo and Mac & Posh closing their doors.  Here are two independent retailers, hard-working, good at what they do and always popping up on social media or in a city brochure. These are people who have been dedicated to their business, who have made good decisions about their products and who have been there, like us, come rain, hail or shine to greet their customers and welcome them in.

You see, as independents we take risks like no other. We don’t have the backing of a large PLC, we don’t have a public purse to bail us out and we don’t have large budgets to throw extravagant events in a bid to stage some One Night Only type event.  We come with new ideas, debt up to our eyeballs (or a re-mortgage on the house!)and a willingness to work extra hard. We know when we start out that there are no guarantees but we do it anyway because we have courage in our convictions.

My issue with this current situation, of good businesses closing down is that I am working in a city and paying rates to a council that appears to have little or no network of support for its businesses.  Now, before I get a list of talking-shops sent to me can I point out that in 11 years of business no-one has come to my door asking my opinion, wondering what we think could be done to improve things and what is going wrong with our town.  Neither Herve nor I have ever been invited to attend any groups or meetings (although seriously, do I have time to listen to some man tell me there are no problems and send me back to sit in my restaurant looking at empty streets…?).

We arrived in Perth to open café Tabou in 2003. That is £½million of business rates in 11 years. This doesn’t begin to take into account the personal financial sacrifices that it has taken to build five businesses, creating jobs and bringing visitors to the town centre.  And yet, apparently, my opinion means nothing.

When you consider the non-domestic rates that we have and look at how they compare to larger cities you will see that we pay almost as much as the Glasgows and Edinburghs of this world and yet they enjoy a population base and tourist traffic that is vastly greater than ours.

There were no concessions during the hard times; we have all been trying hard to keep our heads above water and no-one thought to make the sensible decision to freeze or waiver the crippling rates. Now, even though I know that these rates are set by Scottish Government what bothers me, what grates on my nerves, is the lack of support that I see coming from PKC.  What attempts were made on our behalf to reduce these rates? What has been done to alleviate the situation and make it more bearable for small independent businesses?  Because no-one has been near me to ask for my signature, or tell me they are fighting my corner.

I look at Dundee and I see great things happening – investment by the truckload. I have a friend who decided to open a new shop and after she weighed up her options she decided to go to Dundee. She lives in Perth and travels. Why wouldn’t she? She is making money and her Perth counterparts selling similar products and giving excellent service are closing their doors.

The city feels neglected, like a child without parents. There is no vision, no passion, no-one leading us forward and looking to put us on the map.  Who is in charge of this shambles?

Because let’s be honest, how can we march a city into the future when we can’t even make a decision about a building? I am now beyond caring what happens to that city hall – leave it up, take it down, just someone make a decision and stick with it.  You will never please all of the people all of the time – whatever is decided you are going to rattle the cages of a big group. But so what? Right now we see the whole council as a bunch of cowards and it sickens me to see our livelihood turned into a political pawn. 

Now, I decided that I should do the right thing and deal with this in a polite and diplomatic manner. After all, it may be that I am using my position as a big mouth to air what is really a private opinion. However, I wrote to the provosts office in October 2013 and I’m glad I’m waiting sitting down because I’ve yet to receive a reply.

I could go on; parking that is apparently great, the state of the buildings…. But, you’re intelligent people, I’m sure you have your own thoughts and don’t need me to state the obvious.  Instead I will leave this door open to everyone to leave their comments.  I challenge PKC to give me their thoughts and feedback right here, for everyone to see and discuss.

Now, with a bit of luck I will see you all in the next blog – if not, it may be that my opinion has finally gotten me into bother!

Best wishes,

Paula x  

 

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