‘It’s a Ghost Town!’: Restaurant Closes Due to WA Border
By Nadia Budihardjo
A Yagan Square restaurant relying on the border reopening to revive its business has closed.
Ficus Kitchen & Bar, a farm-to-plate modern Australian eatery, opened in late 2018 and had its last service on Saturday night.
Owner Daren McHugh said tourists visiting city landmark Yagan Square made up at least half of Ficus customers.
“Now we’re not reopening the border, the city’s a ghost town and last year also was really hard,” he said.
“With the border not opening and having no word on when it’s going to open … come April, it’ll be winter.
“How are we going to get through winter when we haven’t had a decent summer?”
Venue manager Tim Richards said Ficus had its best sales after the easing of restrictions in mid-2020.
“Coming out of lockdown, since it was wintertime — winter is notoriously the quietest period — people started going out after being locked up and cooped up and it’s good for business,” he said.
“But then it all slowly started to plateau. It got to a good stable period, but it got to the next lockdown that was announced and it really hurt.
“Especially the three lockdowns in the span of five months.”
The State Government announced lockdowns or heightened restrictions in February, April, May, June and December last year.
Mr McHugh said each snap lockdown announcement hurt the business, with one lockdown costing him about $80,000 to cancel a fully booked weekend.
Mr Richards said the restaurant tried doing takeaway only but logistical issues prevented the business from thriving.
“We’re paying a fair amount, even if we’re closed, to be open with electricity,” he said.
“We threw everything we had at it. We just can’t keep flogging a dead horse.
“To other venues, keep your heads up. Value your customers and staff more than ever now.”
Despite the border closures being the biggest reason for Ficus’s closure, Mr McHugh said the lack of activation at Yagan Square also played a part.
Tenants in the Market Hall floor of what was once touted as a “world-class destination” have left, leaving the venue bare for the State Government to brainstorm on how to revive it.
The WA Government has opened up expressions of interest and commissioned Byte Construction to do a $305,000 reconfiguration of the food court last year.
“They had four years to come up with something but they didn’t do anything,” Mr McHugh said.
Mr McHugh said Ficus would not return in any way or form in the future.
“The model for restaurants now is broken, it doesn’t work; there’s just too high a cost in it,” he said.
“Thank you for all our customers. We enjoyed it and life goes on.
“Perth loves an opening and closing … because our bookings this weekend are off the charts. We are full.”