Is Byron ready for Mac attack?

BYRON Bay is well known for its anti-McDonald's stance, but 20 years on from the passionate anti-Maccas protest of the '90s, has the opposition waned?

Multinationals and chain stores have popped up all over town since then, from Baskin Robbins to Subway, Sportsgirl and Supre, with little or no complaint.

So would a Byron Bay McDonald's incite the same level of outrage as it did in the '90s?

According to Byron Shire Mayor Jan Barham, the answer is yes.

"I think McDonalds is an iconic commercial multinational identity and the last place you want to see associated with Byron Bay," she said.

Cr Barham admits, however, that the character of Byron Bay has changed significantly. She said its growing number of franchise stores threaten to make it indistinguishable from anywhere else.

"I'm personally very sad to see the loss of local businesses from our town centre," she said.

"Our identity and reputation has been built on the fact that we're different.

"But what I hear from visitors now is that Byron doesn't live up to that reputation.

Cr Barham said it all came down to local businesses being pushed out by high rents.

"Only the multinationals can cover those costs," she said.

Cr Barham said it was frustrating, but council had no control over the nature of businesses setting up in Byron, and this could, in theory, include McDonalds.

Planning laws mean McDonald's could take over an existing food store and pop up virtually overnight.

This is what almost happened in the 90s, when a local business owner agreed to allow McDonald's to take over his business. Community pressure was all that kept McDonald's out.

"The business owner, to his credit, realised it would be very hard for him to continue living in the town if he was the one who sold us out to McDonald's," Cr Barham said.

Whether this would happen again remains to be seen. McDonald's is yet to make a move on Byron, but with a new store in Yamba and plans for an outlet at Murwillumbah, it appears to be creeping ever closer.

A local of 38 years, who wished to remain anonymous, said he thought the reaction to McDonald's would now be mild.

"It might upset a few, but the town's changed a lot in the past 10 to 15 years. There's a different mindset now."

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