The iconic Valhalla Cinema building (166 Glebe Point Rd) has been the centre of a battle between a group of Glebe locals and McDonald’s Australia. A McDonald’s ‘pop-up’ store was opened for three days (27-29 May) in the shop next door to the Astor cafe, which was left vacant after the closure some months back of the Japanese restaurant, Sushi-ya.
According to McDonald’s Australia, the purpose of the pop-up store was to market research seven varieties of ‘loaded fries’ (normal McDonald’s chips but with sauces on top). Free fries were guaranteed to attract hungry passers-by who could taste the loaded fries and give their feedback to iPad-wielding McDonald’s staff.
Local opposition to the McDonald’s store was galvanised around a Facebook page called ‘McDonalds, not on our corner – Glebe’. The page, set up by Glebe residents Amanda Tattersall (University of Sydney and founding director of the Sydney Alliance) and Angela Dawson (Faculty of Health, UTS), quickly attracted 700 followers. The campaign had the backing of the Glebe Chamber of Commerce.
Although the pop-up store would only be open for three days, locals were concerned that McDonald’s might come back to Glebe in the future – creating problems for local businesses and the health of Glebe residents, especially children.
A petition was created which, at time of writing, has gained over 1000 signatures. Leaflets with the headline ‘Love Local, Love Glebe’ were handed out in front of the McDonald’s shop each day of its operation; encouraging passers-by to eat locally in preference to eating at outlets of multinational food corporations, such as McDonald’s.
When the leafleters arrived at the Valhalla on the first day of the pop-up store’s operation, they were met by a group of police officers who, it transpired, were there to investigate the deliberate breakage during the night of one of the store’s plate glass windows.
The campaign received a great deal of media attention, with write-ups in the Sydney Morning Herald, ABC, Seven News (television), Daily Telegraph, Inner West Courier, Altmedia/City News, UK Daily Mail and numerous websites both in Australia and internationally.