Empty Surfers
Empty Surfers

Streets of famous party precinct all but deserted

CROWDS of people in usually bustling Surfers Paradise have gone, leaving idle food delivery cyclists, stranded tourists and the rough sleepers.

It seems the only ones immune to the threat of coronavirus are the hundreds of rogue seagulls still trying to scavenge a stray chip.

The bare streets, empty stores and closed shopfronts mirror a regional city centre without a pulse. But this is the Gold Coast. A tourism mecca. The ordinarily pumping party strip with pristine beaches.

Sin City boss Matt Keegan wonders what the future holds. Picture: Glenn Hampson
Sin City boss Matt Keegan wonders what the future holds. Picture: Glenn Hampson

Along the beach, revellers still gather in small numbers and tourists along the foreshore pose with Commonwealth Games mascot Borobi. The statues are a reminder of the 2018 Games, and its legacy promise.

Artesian Hospitality partner Matt Keegan, whose stable of venues includes White Rhino Bar & Eats plus Orchid Avenue nightclubs SinCity, The Bedroom and Havana, says the party strip is a "ghost town".

Matt Keegan has already stood down or let go up to 200 staff across all venues and is anticipating further impacts. Picture: Glenn Hampson
Matt Keegan has already stood down or let go up to 200 staff across all venues and is anticipating further impacts. Picture: Glenn Hampson

He has stood down or let go up to 200 staff across all venues and is anticipating further impacts.

"I don't think anyone yet realises the damage that it's going to do and the long-­lasting impact it's going to have," he says. "It's going to take a long time before people start travelling again. It's going to take a long time before people start going out and spending money again."

This is Thursday in the heart of the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise.

Pedestrians trickle through, but are well outnumbered by the birds.

Surfers Paradise resident George Carr, 76, takes precautions. Picture: Glenn Hampson
Surfers Paradise resident George Carr, 76, takes precautions. Picture: Glenn Hampson

Pensioner George Carr, 76, dons a face mask and is armed with hand sanitiser. He questions why no one else was doing the same, and says he is paranoid.

"I have never seen it like this," he says of Surfers Paradise. "Never. It's a shame.

"It's sad because this is a 100 per cent tourist mecca.

"These businesses, they thrive on tourism … and the poor bastards they're going out of work, and they probably won't get their businesses back."

In Cavill Lane, The BUZ Barber owner CJ Park has already let two people go, but was hopeful of keeping the store open.

"It (was) hard, but this is (the) only way to survive for the business," he says while cutting a man's hair.

Andre Romano is a regular customer.

Toilet paper for sale on the streets of Surfers Paradise, at the Global Brands Outlet. Picture: Glenn Hampson
Toilet paper for sale on the streets of Surfers Paradise, at the Global Brands Outlet. Picture: Glenn Hampson

He studies and works as a cleaner at elite Gold Coast school TSS, but is not overly confident his job will remain as the students switch to online learning.

"It's hard, if the job stops, it's the same for the businesses. How am I going to pay my rent, my food and everything? Hopefully everything is going to work out soon."

Across the way, chef Hakataya Ramen has placed a chair in between the kitchen and the shop front, as he waits for customers.

His usually busy restaurant that attracts more than 100 customers a day has seen just a fraction of that.

In this Japanese restaurant, hand sanitiser sits among the soy sauce and chilli.

Some businesses are adapting, selling toilet paper and other essentials. A technology shop that sells iPhones advertises face masks.

A sign of the times displayed in Surfers. Picture Glenn Hampson
A sign of the times displayed in Surfers. Picture Glenn Hampson

Those from overseas were trying to figure out what to do next. Aussie ex-pats Laurie and Soren Branch, who returned to Australia after six years in Japan, dragged their luggage down the streets of Surfers Paradise on their way to isolation.

Lenny Capt, Viviane Guillot and Nicolas Moukhovsky, from Paris, France, arrived in Queensland from Victoria where they had been working in the hospitality and construction industries.

Lenny, a chippy, was hoping to help with the bushfire recovery work.

Matt Keegan described the streets of Surfers as a “ghost town”. Picture: Glenn Hampson
Matt Keegan described the streets of Surfers as a “ghost town”. Picture: Glenn Hampson

But now the trio, who say their home town is in lockdown with military patrolling the streets, will head north in search of work.

They have a car packed ready for camping but are worried about dwindling budget accommodation options.

"We are stuck here. We cannot go back in France and we don't have a place to sleep here," Nicolas says.

Originally published as Streets of Coast party precinct all but deserted


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