All our locks have been changed’ Playcentre staff and parents angry over shock closure
An Aussie playcentre faces closure after the owner and their landlords failed to reach an agreement on post COVID-19 rent.
Little Dynamo’s Sydney owners Nicole Crameri and Rolf Clarke and their staff have now been locked out of the business, owing more than $300,000 in rent, while parents and children have been left heartbroken and angry.
“Let my daughter have her gymnastic class. She’s making such progress. She’s been in tears all morning, we’ve been explaining that she can’t go to her class today,” father Dan Hanford told A Current Affair.
In an effort the save Little Dynamo’s, parents and children showed up outside the playcentre to voice their support for owners – who have been running the playcentre and café for 16 years.
The owners said they opened it for their daughter Naoise and wanted it to be a place for children to be active and entertained.
But they said the pandemic has pushed their business to its financial limits.
“Our business as with many other businesses was so severely affected by COVID. We had a 4.5-month closure and then even when we were able to reopen there were restrictions in place on gatherings our business really really suffered,” Ms Crameri said.
“We thought we were going to have time to recover… which I think is the fair thing to do… especially now with school holidays coming up. It’s our busiest period. We’re fully booked for two and a half months … we’ve got 24 birthday parties this weekend,” Rolf Clarke said.
The playcentre’s lease was terminated, after Goodman and Little Dynamo’s failed to reach an agreement during mediation.
Owners and staff were locked out, leaving up to 20 people unemployed.
And the business was ordered to pay up.
“We just arrived first thing in the morning and our keys wouldn’t work. Security guards standing there, all our locks had been changed,” Rolf Clarke said.
“There’s still stuff in there like personal computers and things in there that belong to us that we didn’t know to take because we didn’t know that this was going to happen,” Ms Crameri said.
The landlords told A Current Affair in a statement: “Over the past 12 months Goodman has empathetically worked closely with its customers impacted by COVID-19”.
“We have had multiple discussions … where we have attempted to provide rent relief.
“It is with great regret … we were unable to reach any form of agreement with Little Dynamo’s.”
Goodman claims it offered 100 per cent rent relief to Little Dynamo’s from April to October last year and further relief from rental payments until the end of December.
The property managers said they terminated the lease because rent wasn’t paid, and negotiations broke down.
But the owners of Little Dynamo’s said they feel like they’ve been blindsided and now parents who have paid to have a party have shown up with their children to find they’ve been locked out.
“It was just a bit of a shock. You build your little kids up to an exciting and fun day and an exciting and fun week and they just get massively disappointed,” Rachel Johns said.
“Gutted. Just really gutted,” Ms Crameri said.
Full statement by a Goodman spokesperson:
Over the past 12 months Goodman has empathetically worked closely with its customers impacted by COVID-19 and has been successful in helping these companies continue to operate. We have had multiple discussions and a mediation with Clarke Entertainment Pty Ltd (trading as Little Dynamo’s) where we have attempted to provide rent relief and financial support. It is with great regret that despite our efforts to assist, we were unable to reach any form of agreement with Little Dynamo’s.