“It is more cost-effective to keep the doors closed and pay the rent than to open, pay for the overheads and hope that someone will come in. My business depends on international tourists, but there is no one here,” he explained to PS.
Akram fears his business is about to disappear for good, and says he is perplexed by his landlord’s inability to help him survive. The restaurateur, who has seen his turnover plummet by more than 85 per cent, is embroiled in heated negotiations with his landlord, the NSW Land and Housing Corporation.
Akram, who pays the government department the market rate of $200,000 a year in rent, had asked for a 50 per cent rental reduction for a period of six months. He also proposed the remaining rent payment for the six months be deferred for six months, at the end of which it would be reimbursed to the Land and Housing Corporation either when the lease expired or in instalments over an eight-year period.
At the completion of the six-month reduction and deferral period, Akram asked the rental amount be reduced by 40 per cent for at least one year, or until international travel and tourism in Australia returned to normal.
So far, his proposal has been rejected, though the landlord did offer a waiver based on half his lost turnover amount along with a 50 per cent deferral for six months.
“But that would only be for six months, we do not know when travel will resume, when international tourists will return … that could be well into 2021 … I won’t be able to survive that long. I have been a good tenant, never been late with my rent, I just asked that they give me consideration for my circumstances, which is just what the Premier Gladys Berejiklian has encouraged landlords [to do] in the private sector.”
Racing to a start date
They may be faint, but there are signs of a pulse returning to the national social scene.
Organisers of Sydney’s Spring Racing Carnival are forging ahead with plans for seven weeks of thoroughbred action across Rosehill and Royal Randwick, though exactly what a day at the track will look like in the COVID-19 age is a little unclear.
Australian Turf Club commercial executive general manager Corina Black confirmed limited ticket sales – which had been frozen at the start of the pandemic – had quietly resumed this week, and were selling fast, with a focus on tables (albeit socially distanced) within the venues’ restaurants, as well as corporate boxes and private suites.
“Even with social distancing restrictions we can safely accommodate 10,000 people per race day, and we are anticipating, and hoping, that by the time the Everest comes around on October 17, we will be at full capacity at Randwick … so that’s 40,000 people,” a cautiously confident Black predicted.
The club will be using sophisticated thermal imaging cameras at its main entry point to the racecourses. When someone entering registers an above-average temperature, they will be stopped and scrutinised.
“If they are not well, we will be turning them away. Our staff have been fully trained in the new rules of social distancing. The facilities are now being constantly cleaned and we have installed reminder notices around to set out just how far punters should be from each other.”
Next week the Victoria Racing Club is meeting with key stakeholders to gauge what sort of Spring Racing Carnival will be held in Melbourne this year, though given the latest spike in COVID-19 cases, the prospects of the grand social gathering we are used to do not look promising.
Meanwhile milliners such as Paddington’s Neil Grigg have been dreaming up creative new headwear concepts that could provide a stylish and safe solution for ladies heading to the track.
“To incorporate a face shield of some kind into the headwear, offering full protection but is still elegant and beautiful … I believe it can be done,” Grigg said.
“There won’t be much opportunity for showing off if everyone’s in a box, so yes, maybe giant brims will be the go, at the very least it will be a good social distancer, no one will be able to get under it to get close!”
Madison stays mum
She’s made plenty of headlines over the years, including unsuccessfully suing her billionaire client Richard Pratt’s estate, but Sydney’s most notorious courtesan, Madison Ashton, was uncharacteristically shy about her latest publicity blitz when PS dared to ask.
Ashton spoke to parenting website Kidspot about being a mother, porn star and high-class hooker, and doing the school run.
“There were two tribes at school — the nice one, who would be pleasant, and the judgy one, who didn’t even try to hide their disdain,” she said. “I would rock up in hot pants with deep wedges and a deep fake tan, holding frozen peas stuck to my face post-laser treatment. I’ll admit, ‘what was I thinking?'”
“When it came to telling the kids about my profession, there was no official reveal. The kids picked up that something was amiss over time. Next topic!”
The once tight-knit Buttrose clan continues to fall apart.
ABC chair Ita Buttrose’s response to her headline-grabbing niece Lizzie Buttrose’s latest social media meltdown was blunt: “It’s not true.”
On Thursday afternoon a slurring Lizzie Buttrose rang PS claiming her aunt had used ABC lawyers in a family dispute over her mother’s estate. We can only imagine the incredulous laughter around the ABC legal department at that idea. Lizzie then repeated the claims in a post on Facebook, which resulted in a swift legal threat from her brother, convicted cocaine dealer Richard Buttrose, who has been on the straight and narrow since leaving prison in 2017.
Richard pointed out that the claims were false, then called them “libellous, defamatory and slanderous”. The post was taken down almost immediately.
Lizzie, a one-time red-carpet regular who has famously been engaged seven times and once had a “panic button” installed above her bed, had for many years been a staunch supporter of her brother and one of her aunt’s loudest champions.
But in recent months the siblings fell out when Richard Buttrose placed a caveat preventing his sisters from selling their ailing mother’s multimillion-dollar home.
Estate appeal launched
Where there’s a will, there’s a … relative.
Twice-bankrupt, self-styled “Lord Battenberg” has launched an appeal after his bid for a slice of his aunt’s multimillion-dollar estate failed in February.
Battenberg famously claims he is the illegitimate son of Prince Philip and took the titles Lord Andrew of Craigstown — which the previous holder said he had sold to him for £5000 — and Lord Leitrim. He departed Sydney in 2004.
His aunt Minnie Condon died three years ago, leading Battenberg to a lawsuit claiming part of the $7.6 million estate, unsuccessfully challenging a 2016 will that excluded her nephew. Battenberg’s appeal hearing is listed in the NSW Court of Appeal on August 26.
Andrew Hornery is a senior journalist and Private Sydney columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.