Roadworks on George Bass Drive at Lilli Pilli, on the NSW South Coast, are causing disruptions to livelihoods, with the popular THREE66 Espresso Bar in Mosquito Bay feeling the greatest weight of the road closure.
The works, which consist of straightening the windy road between Lilli Pilli and Surf Beach, are being completed to improve safety on the busy road, which has a poor history of car accidents.
Tammie Goodliffe, owner of THREE66 Espresso Bar, has been trying everything she can to keep her business afloat, but with roadworks halting traffic coming to her business, things are looking dim.
Tammie says the cafe has few staff at the moment, not as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, but due to the roadworks.
“The roadworks have made us an inconvenient destination,” she says. “Our cafe would usually be flooded with tradies for ‘smoko’ – socially distanced of course – but now that’s not even happening.”
The business survived six months of COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 and did not need to ask its landlord for help or pay bills from their own pockets. However, now the business is down thousands of dollars per week.
“Double that on weekends, still taking into account the impact of COVID-19,” says Tammie.
To survive these circumstances, the cafe is being creative with its menu, having all-day burgers, encouraging phone-ahead orders and doing reheat dinners.
“There is nothing we aren’t doing to survive,” says Tammie.
The closure of the once busy road has been extended until Friday, 17 December, which Tammie has only just been informed of.
NSW Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance has helped Lilli Pilli businesses by putting up signs for motorists informing them the shops are still open.
The signs have helped a little, with customers who came in as a result of seeing them saying they had no idea the shop was still trading during the roadworks.
However, the road has been closed for so long that driving all the way around Malua Bay and its surrounds to get to THREE66 Espresso Bar is frustrating for customers.
“Many people don’t have the energy to deal with the inconvenience,” says Tammie.
Eurobodalla Shire Council is aware of the issues THREE66 Espresso Bar is facing after Tammie posted on the cafe’s Facebook page pleading for support.
“That got the attention of council,” she says. “It was the first time they made contact with me apologising for grossly underestimating the time needed for the roadworks.”
Tammie says if council had informed her earlier that the works would take this long, she could have adjusted her business model to suit the new circumstances.
Despite this, Eurobodalla Shire Council’s director of infrastructure, Warren Sharpe, says the temporary detour is working well.
“Extending the road closure allows construction to safely continue to completion without the need to manage high loads of traffic through a very busy jobsite,” he said.
Tammie says even when the COVID-19 lockdown lifts, her cafe will still be struggling until George Bass Drive reopens in mid-December 2021.
“It will help that people will be able to sit in and eat their food,” she says. “But with roadworks still happening, we will never be able to make back that money, even with a huge summer.”
Tammie adds the roadworks haven’t just impacted her business, but her family as well.
The cafe is continuing to fight to survive and Tammie hopes that when lockdown lifts and the roadworks end, customers will flood her business again to show their support. She says she is extremely grateful to all those who have stuck with her during this difficult period.