?I can?t see many of us surviving,” one said.Traders also argued that the social benefit of their businesses had been ignored while property developers seemed to operate freely. The Assembly is inviting local business owners to submit their views via an online survey. After business owners were given a chance to share their concerns with Assembly members ? backed by the Guild?s director, Krissie Nicholson ??Business Advice was taken on a tour of Bethnal Green Road and the back streets of Brick Lane to meet more the Guild?s members and hear about the challenges making day-to-day survival a struggle.
Holy ShotMatthew Kim, owner of the Holy Shot caf? on Bethnal Green Road, echoed the sentiments of the roundtable. ?It?s unjustified how expensive rents are,? Kim said, noting the ?aggressive and hostile? attitude of landlords towards independent businesses in the local area. ?In the time I?ve been here, a dozen [neighbours] have come and gone,? he added. When asked what helped his own business thrive in the area, Kim attributed success to a high quality product offering, customer service and the high number of tourists (particularly using Airbnb) in the area.
Bacon Street SalvageOff Brick Lane, Steve Dobkin, owner of Bacon Street Salvage for the past eight years, has seen his business rates go ?up and up?. Rates have also forced Dobkin to reduce his workforce from five to two staff. While Dobkin is ?lucky enough? to own his unit, the business next door was forced to close after 37 years after rent increased from ?15,000 20 years ago to ?107,000 in 2017. Amid rising overheads, Dobkin?s relationship with the local council has almost reached breaking point. ?They don?t want to speak to you,? he told the Assembly members, noting the Guild?s role in helping him speak to his council directly.
Crescent TradingFor Philip Pittack and Martin White, long-serving cloth merchants behind Crescent Trading, keeping their heads above water is becoming increasingly difficult. The main threat to their business has been the closure of Quaker Street. Previously a central route through Brick Lane, footfall has all but disappeared. ?Nobody wants to help us because we?re too small. We are working twice as hard as we did two years ago just to stand still,? Pittack said. ?We?re not destitute, but we?re killing ourselves to earn a living.? Led by Nicholson, East London’s micro business owners are finding a shared voice to take on the challenges. In March, the Guild published its Affordable Workspace Manifesto, putting a series of policies forward to increase the pressure on local decision makers. The manifesto called on councils across East London to recognise the community value of micro businesses to a borough?s prosperity and reflect this in economic and planning policy decisions. It demanded that council’s set aside at least one empty asset in their borough for conversion into affordable workspace by the end of 2018. The manifesto also pushed for a “landlords register” to allow business owners to compare rents and support the development of an affordable rent formula. When the manifesto was published in March, Nicholson said it was central in protecting the ?vital diversity? of London’s economic eco-system. “The workspace crisis in London is as urgent and serious as the housing crisis,” she argued. “If adopted by the next leaders of local government in the local elections, our five proposals will help to provide viable and sustainable solutions.” __________________________________________________________________________________
London councils urged to convert empty assets into affordable workspace The Affordable Workspace Manifesto calls on councils across the capital to recognise the community value of small and micro business to a borough?s prosperity __________________________________________________________________________________
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