Tuff’N Up Boxing gym in Newcastle West will close this weekend, the latest long-term business to fall victim to light rail construction.
Owner and boxing trainer Peter Hallett, who ran Bank Corner gym in Hunter Street for six years before moving to Beresford Street 20 years ago, said his turnover had dropped 60 to 70 per cent in the past year.
His old-school boxing gym is in a warehouse on a prime redevelopment site opposite the Wickham interchange and next to the tram depot under construction on Stewart Avenue.
Mr Hallett said the state government had not done enough to help businesses suffering the consequences of the light rail project.
“It’s just the price of progress, I guess,” he said.
“They’ve shown disregard for me and other businesses. They’ve just come in and railroaded everyone. They could have done more.”
Echoing the complaints of other traders who have struggled during the nine months of construction, Mr Hallett said lack of parking had crippled his business.
“They’ve had my street, Beresford Street, shut off [to single lane] the whole year.
“They hadn’t asked. They just came in and shut if off. That’s my lifeline that, because people park there. They drive around the block two or three times, can’t find a park then don’t worry about it.”
The gym joins a host of businesses which have closed, moved or opened up new premises during the construction, including Newy Burger Co, Frontline Hobbies, Cycle Fitness Nutrition, Raine and Horne, Vinyl Cafe, These Days cafe and mall kiosk Sushi Koo.
The Newcastle Herald reported last weekend that Frontline Hobbies owner Colin Scott was joining a Sydney-based class action against the state government over light rail construction.
Last month, Hunter Development Corporation provided the Herald with a list of 35 businesses it said had opened from Newcastle East to Newcastle West and in Darby Street since light rail work began.
Business advocacy group Newcastle Now said it knew of 15 businesses which had closed and seven which had moved in since September, although not all the closures were necessarily due to rail construction.
The government has said the pain of light rail disruptions in Newcastle will be more than worth the gain when the tram opens to the public early next year.
But Mr Hallett believed his parking problems would have continued if he had stayed open.
“Business is hard, anyhow. My lease is up. I can’t see me surviving another five years. Even if they put the road back, there’s still going to be parking shortages,” he said.
“Any money I had put aside for survival has been gone in the last year trying to survive.
“I realise we’re coming out of it not good, but I’m sure there’s a lot of other businesses in Newcastle who’ve done worse than us. It’s just been horrible.”
He said would have to sell most of his equipment to pay the rest of his rent and was unsure if he would reopen in another location.
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