Cafe and cycle shop Mud Dock is facing an ‘urgent’ challenge to its future in the form of a ‘massive’ hike in rent by Bristol City Council.
After a quarter of a century of occupancy and cordial discourse directly with the council, owners Jerry and Beverly Arron were left chasing information after their five-yearly review was delayed in 2015, despite Jerry Arron twice requesting clarification of their intentions. Four years later, Bristol City Council has now employed an independent surveyor to conduct all outstanding reviews, leaving the Arrons with a six-figure bill, and a limited ability to contest it, they said.
Bristol holds the European record for the longest chain of independent shops on its Gloucester Road. Neighbouring Bath has seen retail and restaurant occupancy rates in the city centre plummet in the last five years, with independent businesses being hit particularly hard. As of 2019, there are thought to be around 50 vacant outlets in the compact city centre. The Arrons are keen not to see the same happen to Bristol, and hope that fellow business owners and customers will rally to their side as they fight for the future of Mud Dock and all other affected businesses.
Jerry Arron is keen to assert that he hopes to work with the council to come to an agreement, having a huge amount of respect and appreciation for the funding that has been put into Bristol’s cycling infrastructure. This includes Mud Dock’s own secure Bike Shed, a workshop, secure parking and showering facility, which was co-funded by Bristol City Council back in 2006. The facilities are used by hundreds every year, enabling them to cycle to work rather than drive or use public transport.
“It seems somewhat counter-intuitive for the council of a city that attributes its very identity to its twin loves of independent business and cycling, to be squeezing us so hard. Perhaps, this is the message that gets lost when the negotiation becomes entirely commercial.
“We appreciate that rents have to be reviewed and have accepted fair increases in the past without complaint, but this development means that we would have to reconsider the whole plan for our future occupation. Simply put, it’s not just a question of what is legal and enforceable but what is ‘fair’ and, ultimately, best for the city.
“We chose to make this city our home and build our business here 25 years ago, and have sold more than 12,000 bicycles, serviced and repaired countless thousands more, since we opened. We want to continue contributing to the vibrant independent scene and continue to promote the use of the bicycle for as long as we can, and we hope to be able to work with Bristol City Council to ensure that this is the case.”