Use them or lose them

By Staff Reporter

Rate bills dropped through letter boxes of small businesses across South Belfast with a heavier thud than usual last week. Indeed, the demise of three long-established institutions along the Lisburn Road at the very moment when the most expensive rates bills ever were being issued to business-owners may not have been unrelated.

Legends Pizzeria, serving the student, hospital and general populace of the lower Lisburn Road has been in business for a generation providing wage-earner jobs to long-serving staff. Its closure is a sign that this recession is hitting even well-established and regularly-patronised establishments.

Also going to the wall last week was Ma Nelson’s pub, a hostelry which had done much to revive the struggling commercial area around the top of Tates Avenue. Repeatedly, Ma Nelson’s had initiated events which aimed to revive the area’s fortunes and place itself at the heart of the once-bustling neighbourhood. That it couldn’t make it despite the best efforts of lease-holder Tina Calder is more evidence of a fundamental shift in how we are using our leisure time. Fewer pub visits are being replaced with a bottle of supermarket wine at home.

While that shift is cheaper on the pocket, its cost to the wider community is yet unclear.

Also pulling down the shutters last week was family-owned newsagent Gainsborough’s.

For the best part of 40 years, Gainsborough’s was a revered Lisburn Road institution. Its closure cannot be divorced from the tough times being experienced by newspapers and shops which specialise in their sale but it also strikes another blow at the very heart of what remains, just, the most vibrant retail thoroughfare in Belfast.

‘Use it or Lose it’, goes the old saw. And for those who lament the loss of these three neighbourhood, locally-owned establishment, our message must be: Buy Local.

At the same time, the closures send out an unequivocal message as well to our political leaders: the rates burden being placed on small businesses is too onerous at a time of recession. The result of high rates bills is not, as might be hoped, more income for government coffers but instead more closures of the very businesses which a thriving community requires.

 

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