Troubled Mascot Towers ‘blocks’ shoppers access to supermarket two days before Christmas

Customers of a popular community supermarket below a dodgy apartment complex have been confronted with barricades around the shop two days before Christmas.

The owners of an IGA on the ground floor of Mascot Towers in Sydney’s inner-south watched on Wednesday as a wall of fencing was built at the front of their store.

The barricades were erected days after best mates Ward Mellick and Scott Hill were told their business had won a reprieve from being forced to close on December 18.

‘Basically, they’re locking us out on Christmas Eve,’ Mr Mellick said. 

Residents of Mascot Towers were evacuated in June last year after major cracks appeared in the structure but businesses on its ground floor had continued to trade. 

Customers of a popular community supermarket below a dodgy apartment complex have been blocked access to their grocery shopping two days before Christmas

Customers of a popular community supermarket below a dodgy apartment complex have been blocked access to their grocery shopping two days before Christmas

The owners of an IGA on the ground floor of Mascot Towers in Sydney's inner-south watched on Wednesday as a wall of fencing was built at the front of their store (pictured)

The owners of an IGA on the ground floor of Mascot Towers in Sydney’s inner-south watched on Wednesday as a wall of fencing was built at the front of their store (pictured)

The barricades were erected days after best mates Ward Mellick and Scott Hill were told their business had won a reprieve from being forced to close on December 18

The barricades were erected days after best mates Ward Mellick and Scott Hill were told their business had won a reprieve from being forced to close on December 18

Retailers were blindsided when Mascot Towers Owners Corporation told them on December 10 that access to their premises would be blocked due to safety concerns.

A letter from the corporation’s lawyers said the tower facades were ‘leaning and unstable’, posing a risk to the public on the Bourke and Church Street boundaries.

The letter advised a SafeWork NSW notice would require the erection of hoardings and public access exclusion to avoid the risk of falling bricks and rubble.

‘You should assume that as and from 18 December 2020 your lot will no longer be accessible,’ the letter stated. ‘Owner occupiers and tenants will not be able to trade from the lot for an indefinite period of time from this date.’ 

That gave Mr Mellick and Mr Hill just a week to clear stock worth $400,000 and inform 15 workers they had lost their jobs in the lead-up to Christmas. 

‘To give us seven days notice to pack up a family business is just nasty,’ Mr Mellick said. ‘It’s cruel.’ 

As contractors began erecting fencing along Church Avenue about 7am on Wednesday Mr Mellick and Mr Hill estimated it would reduce access to their IGA by 90 per cent

Shoppers were confused with the fencing being erected outside the IGA at Mascot Towers

As contractors began erecting fencing along Church Avenue about 7am on Wednesday Mr Mellick and Mr Hill estimated it would reduce access to their IGA by 90 per cent. Confused shoppers are pictured outside the IGA

Retailers were blindsided when Mascot Towers Owners Corporation told them on December 10 that access to their premises would be blocked due to safety concerns. The IGA is pictured shortly before the last panel of fencing blocking access from Church Street was erected

Retailers were blindsided when Mascot Towers Owners Corporation told them on December 10 that access to their premises would be blocked due to safety concerns. The IGA is pictured shortly before the last panel of fencing blocking access from Church Street was erected

One local resident said blocking the Church Street entry to the supermarket, which is next to Mascot train station, was more dangerous than any safety risk posed by the building

One local resident said blocking the Church Street entry to the supermarket, which is next to Mascot train station, was more dangerous than any safety risk posed by the building

Last week SafeWork NSW granted an extension to the required measures which allowed the retailers to remain open until January 29.

‘When it was January 29, I thought, “Oh my God, I’m just going to get through Christmas and New Year with the family”,’ Mr Mellick said.

‘I thought January’s going to be tough but I could focus on my wife and kids. I didn’t think we’d be in this scenario where we’re again fighting to save our business.’  

As contractors began erecting fencing along Church Avenue about 7am on Wednesday Mr Mellick and Mr Hill estimated it would reduce access to their IGA by 90 per cent.

Shoppers were being forced to find a narrow entrance to the IGA off a mall on Bourke Street and many were walking on the roadway because of a lack of pedestrian crossings.

‘That’s more dangerous than what the building issue is,’ Mr Mellick said. ‘It just seems like they’re trying to get rid of us.’

Mr Mellick and Mr Hill believed they had just a week to clear stock worth $400,000 and inform 15 workers they had lost their jobs in the lead-up to Christmas. 'To give us seven days notice to pack up a family business is just nasty,' Mr Mellick said. 'It's cruel.' Mr Mellick is pictured

Mr Mellick and Mr Hill believed they had just a week to clear stock worth $400,000 and inform 15 workers they had lost their jobs in the lead-up to Christmas. ‘To give us seven days notice to pack up a family business is just nasty,’ Mr Mellick said. ‘It’s cruel.’ Mr Mellick is pictured

Shoppers were being forced to find a narrow entrance to the IGA off a mall on Bourke Street and many were walking on the roadway because of a lack of pedestrian crossings

Shoppers were being forced to find a narrow entrance to the IGA off a mall on Bourke Street and many were walking on the roadway because of a lack of pedestrian crossings

Mr Hill said casual customers would not search for another way to get into the supermarket, which was now barely visible from the street. 

‘People aren’t going to do it,’ he said. ‘It’s just going to be a mess. A mess to get in and mess to get out.’

One local resident said blocking the Church Street entry to the supermarket, which is next to Mascot train station, was more dangerous than any safety risk posed by the building.

‘It’s a disgrace,’ she said. ‘We know that the towers are a bit iffy but this is just stupid. You don’t do this on December 23.’

‘Now you’ve got people walking on the road. Someone’s going to be hurt badly. And the poor IGA, they’ve worked so hard. How are they going to get trade?’

Mr Mellick said he and Mr Hill had prepared for relatively normal Christmas trading but were now facing big losses.

Ward Mallick (far left) and Scott Hill (raising hand) are pictured out the front of their supermarket on Wednesday as the fencing is erected

Ward Mallick (far left) and Scott Hill (raising hand) are pictured out the front of their supermarket on Wednesday as the fencing is erected 

Mr Mellick said some of the other six businesses below the towers could pack up and move but his 500 square metre supermarket was fitted out with equipment worth $400,000. Workers are pictured erecting barricades outside the supermarket

Mr Mellick said some of the other six businesses below the towers could pack up and move but his 500 square metre supermarket was fitted out with equipment worth $400,000. Workers are pictured erecting barricades outside the supermarket

‘Being Christmas, you stock up in December and you back off in January,’ he said. ‘We started ramping up our orders again.

‘The worst thing is the perishables. Every day they lose value.’ 

Mr Mellick said some of the other six businesses below the towers could pack up and move but his 500 square metre supermarket was fitted out with equipment worth $400,000.

‘We’re not going to find another site like this,’ he said. 

Mr Mellick, who has two boys aged eight and six, and Mr Hill, who has a ten-year-old daughter, have run the IGA since 2016 and have 15 years left on their lease. 

The supermarket has a bottle shop attached and Mr Mellick and Mr Hill, both 48, also have a coffee shop next door.  

‘We’ve got a really good following,’ Mr Mellick said. ‘It’s a great community. We’ve got regular customers and we’ve got a really good team.

Mr Hill believed Mascot Towers was more likely to be sold than repaired and that his business would become collateral damage. Workers are pictured blocking off access to the IAG from Church Street

Mr Hill believed Mascot Towers was more likely to be sold than repaired and that his business would become collateral damage. Workers are pictured blocking off access to the IAG from Church Street

‘We’ve done the hard yards and business was going along well. We were starting to get a bit of time with our families and this happens.’ 

Mr Hill believed Mascot Towers was more likely to be sold than repaired and that his business would become collateral damage.

‘I think it’s got to the stage where there is no hope of it getting fixed,’ he said. 

‘I look at it like a modern day Lord of the Flies where you’re on this island trying to survive and everyone’s turning on everyone else.’ 

The owners of Mascot Towers are seeking millions of dollars in damages from a neighbouring developer they allege is responsible for cracks in the complex.

That developer claims Mascot Towers was already plagued by structural damage before they started excavation work. 

The owners of Mascot Towers are seeking millions of dollars in damages from a neighbouring developer they allege is responsible for cracks in the complex. A worker is pictured outside the IAG on Wednesday morning

The owners of Mascot Towers are seeking millions of dollars in damages from a neighbouring developer they allege is responsible for cracks in the complex. A worker is pictured outside the IAG on Wednesday morning

A spokesman for the Mascot Towers Owners Corporation said the fencing was erected to comply with the SafeWork notice and advice from its own engineers.

There was no move to force the businesses out of the complex and the barricades had only ‘modified their pathways a little bit for their customers.’

‘That’s not stopping their trade,’ the spokesman said. 

The corporation was exploring a collective sale of the towers but no potential buyer had been identified. 

‘There’s no one knocking on the door saying we’ll buy it,’ the spokesman said.

While remediation work was on hold and litigation was ongoing the corporation had to ensure the building was safe. 

‘In a nutshell they haven’t been told to get out,’ the spokesman said of the businesses in the complex. ‘We’ve bent over backwards to allow them to trade.’

‘We’re helping them as much as we possibly can.’

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