A disabled woman in a motorised scooter holding a coffee sign at Skipton Street Bakery has been deemed a distraction and a safety hazard and ordered to stop.
For the past three weeks the bakery has employed Thelma Arbuckle to hold a coffee sign on the footpath outside the bakery for two hours a day.
But without warning on Wednesday, council contacted bakery owner Andrew Juggins saying they had received seven complaints about Ms Arbuckle and she must cease advertising outside the family-run business.
“We are absolutely saddened that some people have actually complained about Thelma who is in a disability scooter holding a sign for us at the front of our store promoting our coffee, to the council,” Mr Juggins wrote on Facebook.
“Sadly Thelma actually has no job now thanks to these people. Apparently she was a distraction. Council have said that it is a breach as she was on council land and that they had several complaints today only! I am really hurt.
“We have never taken advantage of Thelma as she gets paid well, she also has a coffee (for free) in the morning and is always offered breakfast!”
Ms Arbuckle said she was sad to have to stop working in a job she enjoyed.
“I’m a bit surprised by how it has turned out. I didn’t realise I was making trouble for anybody,” she said.
“They advertised the job, I thought I’d have a go at it and because I have back problems and can’t stand up for very long, they said I could bring my mobility scooter and they gave me a go.”
Ms Arbuckle believed she was less distracting than other forms of advertising she had seen elsewhere.
“I sit and wave a coffee card around. I’m not in a suit of any kind, I’m not going in traffic, I’m just sitting there on my mobility scooter.”
City of Ballarat environment and infrastructure director Terry Demeo said Ms Arbuckle and the sign had been distracting drivers.
"The person involved was proving a distraction to traffic along a state highway and at a very busy intersection, with people complaining she was creating a safety hazard for motorists on a very busy road," Mr Demeo said.
Mr Juggins argued that the state election pre-polling centre further along Latrobe Street presented a far greater distraction for drivers than Ms Arbuckle had.
“How do the polling booths get away with it on Latrobe St? There are people crossing the road all over the place and not only that they have marquees up on the nature strip, umbrellas, signs, stuff on trees ...that's a distraction and a bit hypocritical,” he said.
Mr Juggins was upset that none of the people who rang council to complain had raised their concerns with him.
“I understand the safety side of things but I think they have gone a bit overboard,” Mr Juggins said.
He said council told him they could submit an application for a permit to advertise on the footpath, but there was no guarantee it would be approved.
The idea to employ someone to hold a sign outside the family bakery came after Mr Juggins noticed coffee sales slipping as more drive-through coffee outlets sprang up along busy Skipton St.
“There are so many drive-throughs in the area and people find it more convenient and easier … and with another one going in up the road there will be five drive through coffee outlets within 2.5km.
“We don’t have a drive through and can’t get one here so we are losing sales because of that, but we’ve got a new coffee brand that is really nice and we want to let people know they can get coffee here because a lot of people drive past not knowing that.”