THREE jars of cookies and a coffee machine have landed Cairns entrepreneur Flora Pondrilei in serious hot water.
Her humble little PNG-style kofi haus has operated without any issues as a social club in the garage of her McLeod Street Queenslander home since 2006.
That was until a local business complained to Cairns Regional Council that Ms Pondrilei was operating illegally.
“We only aim to break-even,” Flora said. “This isn’t a commercial operation, it’s a meeting place for us.”
On average, Wantok Kofi Haus sells just seven cups of coffee a day.
Councillor Max O’Halloran said it was a clear breach, given that the business operates in a residential zone.
“Someone in the area has complained because it’s unfair that they’re running a legal business and having to pay rent and everything,” he said.
“I met with Flora and took over some application forms for her. All she has to do now is go through the due process with town planning to apply for a change of use of premises.
“You just can’t run a church or a business or anything without obtaining the proper approvals.”
The application will cost Flora about $1,500.
She can’t understand why any business would see her as competition. “If someone comes in wanting food I just say go see Ronnie at Monika’s Coffee Lounge or the Smith Street Cafe.”
Councillor Rob Pyne has also met with Flora.
“It’s a shame. It’s a great place to go for a cheap coffee in a tropical environment, especially for PNG expats. Places like this are exactly how people integrate into the community.”
Papua New Guineans are the largest migrant group in Cairns but don’t have a formal social club like the Germans, Serbians or Chinese.
“Here they can get something that reminds them of home,” Flora said.
“They’re not looking for a traditional cafe, they just want to chew some betel nut, enjoy a big belly laugh and chat in Tok Pisin.”