Plan for new tavern sparks residents’ fears
A proposal to establish a new licensed tavern in the CBD has seen the City of Melbourne receive 52 objections fuelled largely by residents’ fears of noise and unsociable behaviour.
An application for a planning permit from Liquor Plan was lodged with the council to open a new venue at the Fairfax House building located at 392 Little Collins St, which consists of 31 residential units on the upper floors.
If approved, the application plans to turn most of the lower ground floor of the building into a tavern and feature a stage, three seating areas to the back of the venue, and a kitchen.
The tavern would cater up to 80 patrons and operate at reduced opening hours than initially proposed in response to community feedback – with closing times of 11pm Friday and Saturday and 10pm on all other days. Music would not be played after 9pm on any day via conditions.
At the time of publishing, the application was considered at the council’s Future Melbourne Committee meeting on November 22, during which council management recommended councillors grant a planning permit.
According to the council, the application was acceptable as the hours, patron numbers, and the venue management meet relevant planning scheme requirements and policy for the site’s central city location.
However, residents of the building expressed concern about the location of the venue, as well as noisy patrons, reverberation of noise off buildings, and a potential for anti-social behaviour including intoxicated patrons.
They also cited concerns of health and air quality impacts with regards to patrons smoking, and the possibility of patrons entering the residential part of the building.
In response, a council report said the applicant had submitted an acoustic engineering report which confirmed the venue’s use would comply with the Environment Protection Authority’s noise protocol.
Under the plans, background music is proposed to be played within the tavern during business hours.
“The applicant has advised that may include acoustic or lightly amplified live music entertainment,” a council report said.
“Noise will be regulated as a result of the indoor nature of the tenancy. Conditions will also be included to restrict noise levels associated with live music to those in accordance with the EPA Noise Protocol, this will also extend to the stage area shown on the plans.”
However, with the proposed reduced opening hours, the council report said the applicant “did not seek to formally amend the proposal to reflect these changes”.
“Therefore, the proposal considered as part of this assessment is that which was subject to notice with the proposed opening hours.”
The proposed venue would have an entrance area off Little Collins St with no external area associated with the tavern use.
Anti-social behaviour and adverse impacts on public health and safety would be “limited by the scale of the proposal” and the venue management plan which would “require the operator to encourage patrons not to loiter around the site after leaving the premises”, the council said.
The council also pointed to the entrance of the residential building being separate from the tavern entrance and the residential entrance being clearly signposted and only accessible via a security fob/key.
The council received three letters of support which cited a lack of similar venues in the area for residents and the added vibrancy such a use would bring to the area.
Fairfax House was identified as having a significant grading in the council’s Heritage Inventory March 2022 (amended October 2022).
Community alarm over end to late-night liquor licencing
A freeze on late-night liquor licences in the inner city would end under a re-elected Labor government, sparking community concerns it would increase violence and anti-sociable behaviour.
Since 2008, the state government has paused the issuing of liquor licences that would allow venues to serve alcohol past 1am.
The freeze, which was first introduced by former Premier John Brumby, has been aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm and crime in the Stonnington, Yarra, Melbourne, and Port Phillip local government areas.
However, Premier Daniel Andrews said the ban would be lifted to allow venues to apply for new trading hours, with each licence application to be judged on its merits.
The government would also pour $34 million into Victoria’s music industry.
But the scrapping of the ban has prompted community concern that late-night drinking is the right approach to revitalising the city in the wake of the pandemic.
Earlier this year a state government spokesperson told CBD News that the freeze would continue until June 2023, “subject to some exemptions”.
Residents 3000 president Rafael Camillo said he surprised by the announcement with fears it would increase public anti-sociable behaviour and violence. •