A local councillor has warned that more units in the city centre could be left vacant unless something drastic is done to help local businesses.
Ronnie Crawford claims that unless retailers’ overheads are cut in line with reduced sales the blight of closed businesses in the city centre will continue and warns of no ‘signifigant recovery.’
His warning comes after a local restaurant owner based at the Square has called for more help so locally independent family businesses like his can continue to survive.
Stephen Higginson of Square Bistro has been based in the Square for seven years.
He says he pays £30,000 a year in rates and £12,500 in rent on a 1,100 square unit.
“Don’t get me wrong we are busy, very busy,” he said.
“We make 100 meals a night over the weekend. and are a thriving business.
“I’m not closing up but I pay out £1,000 a week before I can make a profit or pay other bills.
“I work really hard. I work 85 hours a week and I have a young family to support and the only day off I have is a Sunday.
“I have another three years left on my lease but we have been left here high and dry. What I would like to see is rate and rents relief.
“Another unit here is set to close in December so that is another empty unit.
“If I went elsewhere I could get a building two and a half times the size at just £15k a year.
“When I originally signed the lease for the restaurant, Lisburn Square was a vibrant, fully let shopping destination.
“ There was entertainment on a Saturday with a manager here but now that is all gone to pot.
“As the recession started to hit there were many casualties within the Square, with very high rent and rates. Businesses could no longer sustain these costs and consequently Lisburn Square has become derelict.
“Why have we been left paying extortionate rent, rates and service charges here which now has 14 vacant units and only nine let units in which only three of us are independentally owned in the Square? I feel we have been ignored.”
Councillor Crawford said: “The rates bill and indeed rent take no account of reduced footfall and the rise of internet shopping. Unless retailers’ overheads are cut in line with reduced sales the blight of closed businesses in the city centre will continue and it is unlikely to see any significant recovery. Our elected representatives need to understand the problems of running a business in the current climate.”