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Hospital shop closes its doors

Lynne Mowbray |

The Grafton Base Hospital’s coffee shop, North Grafton General Store, has reluctantly shut up shop for the last time, on Friday last week.

Marie and Craig Howe, who have owned the business for the last eight and a half years, said that restrictions imposed by the Northern NSW Local Health District NNSWLHD in December last year to only sell sugar free drinks, has impacted on their business.

“Last week we sat down and had a good look at the shops finances,” Mr Howe said.

“What these new restrictions have done, has made it so that the shops just not making money.

“There are another two shops within walking distance, where you can get whatever you want without any restrictions.

“We agree that it’s not good to eat and drink too much sugar, but this certainly isn’t the way to solve that, by putting one business out of business, by a stupid restriction because we’re (located) on hospital grounds.

“Do the pencil pushers in Sydney or wherever the hell they’re sitting; think that by not selling sugary drinks in one shop in Grafton, it’s going to make people healthy?

“All that it’s really done is made our shop unviable. Because when people want their can of Coke or lemonade, they go somewhere else to buy it now. And while they’re there, they buy their lunch and everything else,” he said.

Mr Howe said that the drink restrictions were bad enough, but the NNSWLHD will also be imposing new food restrictions in December, which will impact further on his business.

“We’ve also been trying to get a lease out of the NNSWLHD for the last four and a half years; so we’ve been operating without a lease.

“The only time we’ve had anyone contact us about a lease was on Thursday (the day before we closed) – three days after we announced that we were going to close.

“They didn’t really come with a lease offer, it was more of a suck up to say that they’ve worked with us to try and keep it going; but they haven’t.

“We were told (at the end of last year) that we would have a lease offer by January/February this year and Thursday was the first time we’ve heard from them and it’s too late now,” he said.

Mr Howe said that they have been touched by the positive comments from the community on the shops Facebook site, after the announcement that the shop would be closing and they will miss the interaction with the community.

“We have had people come in before their dialysis or chemo treatment,” Mr Howe said.

“It’s been a good place for people to come for a break when they’ve got people in hospital with big issues; they can come in and just have half an hour break.

“That’s why I hope that a local person takes it (the business) over and can keep it going, because those people need someone like that in the shop.

“But unfortunately we can’t (continue to) provide that; at the expense of our family’s welfare.

“I’m sure that there will be someone local who is willing to have a crack at it; and I hope there is,” he said.

At the time of going to print, no comment had been received from Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD).