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Café owners fume over Aussie council's 'nanny state' demand

Supporters of the Sydney café have signed a petition to ask for the outdoor seating to remain despite no permit being obtained by the owners.

Regular visitors to a bustling Aussie café have been confused and frustrated to learn their favourite coffee spot has been ordered to remove its outdoor seating by council over "safety concerns", despite years without incident and after just one complaint.

Rollers Bakehouse in Manly’s Rialto Lane is renowned in the area for its delectable pastries and sought-after coffee, with customers travelling "from afar just to see this hidden little gem here in the laneway". Owners say the "outdoor space has been a cornerstone of community connection" without "impeding essential road activities" and removing it would significantly impact business. Though some locals argue the seats block a vital walkway, forcing parents with prams onto the road.

According to Northern Beaches council, the seating is dangerous due to the proximity of incoming traffic, and that owners never applied for a permit for outdoor seating, which comes with a price. Even still, the bakery has been in operation for almost six years and says it hasn't recorded a single incident.

Rollers Bakehouse in Manly has been ordered to remove its outdoor seating over
Rollers Bakehouse in Manly has been ordered to remove its outdoor seating over "safety concerns". Manager Malin Segerberg pictured here. Source: Instagram / Facebook

Council accused of 'nanny state' decision

A petition to keep the outdoor seating has garnered significant traction online, with some 1500 people backing the local business. Rollers Operations Manager Malin Segerberg said the outdoor seating "is such a big part of the community".

"Rollers has been located here for five years, almost six now, and they have just proposed to us that within a week’s time now they want to remove all our plants, all our outdoor seating because it’s obstructing the laneway," she told the Manly Observer.

A street view shows the bakery's seating is behind protective bollards. Source: Google Maps.
A street view shows the bakery's seating is behind protective bollards. Source: Google Maps.

"And this is such a big thing for us, because the outdoor seating, the plants that have been here for so long now have never caused any issues. The community loves it. Customers, the locals, everyone travelling from afar just to see this hidden little gem here in the laneway.

"It’s such a big part of the community, and it’s really cool to see the community come together and actually standing up for us."

The lane in question is used primarily for deliveries, with the café situated in between the back entrances to several local businesses on Manly Corso.

Signs along the lane read "loading zone", warning people trucks frequent the area.

Manly local offers different take

A Manly local speaking to Yahoo News Australia on the condition of anonymity had quite a different take. The resident said that due to the fact Rollers never applied for a permit, they also were not paying the council fees associated with outdoor seating — a pricey tax every other local business is slugged with.

The local explained that because the bakery installed pot plants and chairs along what was a footpath, people accessing the area, which is in the proximity of a Coles and a parking garage, are forced to use the road. The local said the fact there was no longer an accessible footpath meant that people — including those with prams or with mobility issues — were forced to use the road, which she said makes it dangerous.

Rilalto Lane is runs parallel to Manly Corso and is primarily used for deliveries and by those visiting the café. Source: Google Maps.
Rilalto Lane runs parallel to Manly Corso and is primarily used for deliveries and by those visiting the café. Source: Google Maps.

"If you're driving there, then it's full of people who aren't moving out of the way and there's multiple businesses that have loading docks that need to be accessed that way," they added. "I'm all for outdoor seating and it also should be free to everyone, but complaining about not being able to put seats on a road is dumb."

A Northern Beaches spokesperson confirmed to Yahoo News Australia the café does not have an approved Outdoor Dining Permit nor did they ever apply for it.

The spokesperson explained that council had assessed the site and was unable to offer a permit due to safety reasons. The café operators were notified of the complaint and council asked them remove outdoor seating and pot plants. When no action was taken, a formal notification was issued on January 31.

Other residents weigh in

Online, Northern Beaches locals weighed in. "The local council is ruining another great business in Manly. Let’s just allow vape shops, ice cream and yogurt franchises to run the show. Manly is getting worse and worse, let the locals enjoy what we have left," a man wrote on Instagram.

"God we are such a Nanny State! That place pulls in people from far and wide," wrote a woman. Others said the move had "absolutely no common sense or civic mindedness" behind it, and it went against supporting "small business growth in a tourist area".

One resident who said they lived nearby, said the café gave life to an otherwise "drab laneway".

"My apartment is on Rialto Lane opposite Rollers," the local explained. "With people crossing the laneway to go to the Corso, any truck/vehicle driving through Rialto Lane always slows down and continues to drive slowly past Rollers.

"Rollers' outdoor furniture and pot plants are on the inside of the bollards, so removing the seating isn’t going to make a difference. The outdoor seating and plants brings a friendly community atmosphere into that drab laneway."

One other person seemed to agree with the council's stance.

"Why didn’t they apply for a permit first….. you can’t just take over the area by stealth," they said.

Yahoo News Australia has contacted Rollers Bakehouse for comment.

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