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Coogee Bay Road may be closed despite outrage from local businesses

Business owners already struggling after COVID-19 say plans to turn one of Sydney's busiest beachside roads into a shopping mall will close them for good.

Coogee Bay Road runs directly through the heart of Coogee, down onto the suburb's popular beach and like much of Sydney's east, is flooded with people throughout the summer months.

The busy strip is littered with small businesses and independent shops, all who have battled to survive during the coronavirus lockdown and restrictions.

But just as they are finding their feet again, Randwick City Council has proposed the road be shut off to cars for three months and transformed into a mall-style area.

The council claims the move will aid in 'business activation', but local businesses are fearful it will do the total opposite - deterring people from visiting the popular strip.

Business owners already struggling after COVID-19 say plans to turn Coogee Bay Road - one of Sydney's busiest beachside areas - into a shopping mall will close them for good. Among those against the proposal are (L-R) locals Megan Bourke, Paul Sharman, Morris Lombardo, Anthony Mitchell and Dave Martin

Coogee Bay Road runs directly through the heart of Coogee, down onto the suburb's popular beach and like much of Sydney's east, is flooded with people throughout the summer months

With no traffic on the road, council plans to fill the street with seating areas and even a sandpit - despite the current social distancing requirements and the fact there is a beach just a few metres away.

Under the proposal the road closure would last from August through until November.

Dave Martin, the longtime owner of Coogee Courtyard cafe, said taking cars off the road would cripple his business - with takeaway coffees and food the main thing that got him through COVID-19.

'Everyone knows malling somewhere is a killer for business,' Mr Martin said.

'I've been in Coogee for ten years and I have never had a worse two year period than what has just gone. This proposal will impact my takeaway coffee trade immensely.

'After everything we've been through, for the council to throw this at us, you wonder if they even want us to succeed.'

The pain COVID-19 inflicted on small business along Coogee Bay Road came after a year in which retail had already been affected by the closure of the street for works.

Dave Martin, (pictured) the owner of Coogee Courtyard cafe, said removing cars from the road would cripple his business - with takeaway coffees and food the main thing that enabled him to survive through COVID-19

Business owners say after suffering through extended works to widen the footpath last year, if the plan goes ahead it could substantially affect their bottom line

Those works saw the footpath widened and aesthetics improved, and despite taking longer than expected were accepted by business owners.

These new plans are not, with at least a dozen businesses - including cafes, clothes stores, chemists, restaurants and butchers - opposing them.

LaSpiaggia Italian restaurant has been on Coogee Bay Road since 1996 and its owner Morris Lombardo said business has never been busier than in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions being lifted.

But he fears if this proposal goes ahead, it could put them back behind the eight-ball. 

'We're super busy to be quite honest and I don't want something like this to ruin the momentum,' he said. 

'Why would you ruin that, the money can be better spent elsewhere.

'I appreciate that Randwick City Council is trying to help us out, but it is as if they are not listening to what the majority of businesses are saying.  

'I think if they want to attract people to the area what they could do would be spend it on Christmas, really do Coogee Bay Road up with decorations and a big tree, they never do anything at that time of year.'

Morris Lombardo has run LaSpiaggia Italian restaurant on Coogee Bay Road since 1996 and he says business has never been busier than in the wake of COVID-19 - but fears they will suffer if the council's plan goes ahead

In a statement released this week, the council spruiked it had the support of three Coogee Bay Rd businesses including the Coogee Bay Hotel (pictured) and Little Jack Horner - despite both having main entrances on Ardern Street

Despite the majority of businesses being against it, the proposal this week received approval by a traffic management committee - a major step towards it going ahead.

In a statement released this week, the council spruiked it had the support of three Coogee Bay Rd businesses including the Coogee Bay Hotel and Little Jack Horner - despite both having main entrances on Ardern Street. 

'The activation ideas include a "live and local" stage for local musicians, pop-up parks with real grass, plants and seating, street art, giant games and moveable tables and chairs,' the statement said.

'A final decision on whether to proceed with any temporary activation proposal is yet to be made and will be considered by council once a detailed plan has been developed.'

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