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Friday, April 29, 2011

Street closed, but bills still come

Street closed, but bills still come

Last updated 05:00 27/04/2011
Cafe owners within Christchurch's red zone have been receiving council bills for using outdoor space despite their businesses being closed since February's earthquake.

Maria Sesun, whose husband Fred Sesun has run Pronto Cafe in New Regent St for 17 years, said the business had received three bills, worth $102 each, from the city council for using the footpath and street for dining since February.

However, the street had been cordoned since February 22.

Pronto Cafe, like other businesses that utilised footpath or street space, paid a monthly rent to the council.

However, Pronto did not expect to pay that rent while it could not operate.

"It's kind of a little bit of a sick joke, but I don't think it's intentional. I think it's just a breach in the system," Maria Sesun said.

The cafe did not have business interruption insurance and she did not want to think about having to pay the bill.

"We've no funds to pay it."

Sesun said her husband hoped to open the business when the street reopened, but they had no idea when that would be.

"There is really no timeframe."

She understood the street's buildings could be repaired.

Fred Sesun, 55, had been looking for another job in the meantime, but had been knocked back because of his age, his wife said.

"He was working seven days a week and then suddenly everything stops for him. He's really suffering."

Christchurch City Council leasing consultancy team leader Barry Woodland said the invoices had been automatically generated.

He urged cafe owners to disregard the invoices. Woodland said the council would not charge for any period when cafe owners could not use the space. New notices, with the credit adjustments, would be sent out, he said.

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