Some Queen Victoria Market traders feel trapped in their businesses, which they can’t sell because of uncertainty about the future.
Their only option, they say, is to stay but their turbulent and often toxic relationship with market management gives them little confidence.
CBD News met with a number of traders who would like to like to leave, but there are no buyers in the current environment.
Luke Craczyk of The Eggporium in I Shed acknowledges that all traders have been given tenure until 2021, but he says this is not enough.
“We’re stuck,” he said. “We can’t make any improvements and we can’t leave. It’s like having a job that you’re not allowed to leave.”
Mr Craczyk says he bought his business with four years remaining on an eighteen-year licence (6x6x6) and was assured the time that a similar licence would be forthcoming if he traded within the rules.
CBD News has seen an August 2017 email from QVM management which asks him to either sign the 2021 extension or leave.
“If you are not intending to sign it, we will take that as an indication that you wish to relinquish your licence and we will move ahead accordingly,” the email says.
Mr Craczyk said this approach to negotiation was contrary to Australian Consumer and Competition Commission regulations.
He said contradictory messaging and a high turnover of management staff also didn’t help.
“It might be alright if you thought that any one knew what they were talking about,” he said.
Mr Craczyk said traders had always wanted from management better parking arrangements and better marketing.
“These two things haven’t been delivered,” he said. “The rest of the stuff that they talk about is somewhat irrelevant to everybody.”
Mr Craczyk said “a letter of comfort” guaranteeing tenure post-renewal would satisfy traders that they had a secure future.
He said some traders felt that management was deliberately running down the market and privately wanted the get rid of as many traders as possible.
This was particularly true, he said, following the release of a 2012 email from QVM chair Paul Guerra instructing staff not to sign new leases which could become a liability on the company “if and when the redevelopment goes ahead”.
But new QVM chief executive Stan Liacos says the market desperately wanted to keep traders like Mr Craczyk.
He said management had offered most traders a longer licence renewal than what they had previously enjoyed.
“When the renewal projects are underway and we actually have more certainty of project completion dates ourselves, we do look forward to entering into many more new or extended leases and licences providing our many hundreds of traders with more secure tenure than we have been able to provide before, particularly where they too are keen to co-invest in the fit out of the market,” Mr Liacos said.
“We understand that this is what our trader community has been longing for. We are keen to deliver on that commitment once our desperately needed renewal works are well underway.”
“Luke is a highly valued licensed trader and exactly the sort of business we think contributes to making Queen Victoria Market the special place that it is. He commands a pivotal location in Shed I and has a popular offering for customers.”
“Back in August 2016, QVM management made a strong commitment to guarantee tenure to all traders operating at the market at that time through to the end of the renewal development period. We have formally offered all leaseholders and licensees security until December 2021. This degree of tenure is actually longer than what most licensees had had prior. It was a significant commitment.”
“Our recently extended leases and licences do permit, if necessary, for traders to be relocated from their current trading locations while works are underway so they can continue to trade at the market right throughout renewal works.”