Plans revised for huge Bourke St bar

By David Schout

Plans to turn one of the CBD’s oldest buildings into a stylish late-night venue have been revised following concerns from Victoria Police, the City of Melbourne and nearby residents.

In April this year, hospitality and entertainment outfit the O’Brien Group submitted a planning application to turn the 1840s built Job Warehouse into an almost 1000-patron late-night venue called Juliette’s Terrace.

The heritage-listed Bourke St site in the CBD’s east end, most recently a haberdashery business, has sat derelict since 2012. 

The group had sought to add it to its portfolio of venues, which includes the Bondi Icebergs, O’Brien Icehouse in Docklands and the nearby Imperial Hotel.

But a number of concerns were raised with the original application, including by Victoria Police, about the impact on local amenity and venue management plans. 

There were also more than 80 public objections.

As a result, in September the group resubmitted a planning application with the City of Melbourne, and group CEO Michael Xavier O’Brien believed they had addressed key concerns including noise, entry and exit points onto nearby streets, and crowd control. 

“We’ve listened and we’ve responded,” he said.

Original concerns from both the council and locals chiefly surrounded the noise and amenity impact on nearby residents in Liverpool St.

The new submission has committed to enclosing a planned retractable roof and all Liverpool St facing doors and windows by 10pm, one hour earlier than capital city guidelines.
Patrons would also not be permitted to exit the venue from Liverpool St after 10pm.

Mr O’Brien told CBD News that Victoria Police had now removed its objection.

“The Job Warehouse building is universally regarded as one of Melbourne’s most prominent eyesores and embarrassments of our great city,” he said.

“Our development will enhance the amenity of the site and increase land values in the surrounding areas. We will create a stylish and sophisticated precinct that all Melburnians will be justifiably proud of.”

But whether the changes alleviate locals’ concerns remains to be seen. 

Nearby residents have been angered about both the capacity of the proposed venue (957 patrons) and its special exemption to operate until 3am — both of which are unchanged in the revised application.

In 2008, the Brumby government introduced a freeze on late-night liquor licenses in response to alcohol-related harm and crime in inner-Melbourne.

Since then, applicants wishing to trade beyond 1am require a ministerial exemption, which the minister can assign provided the venue is of “economic or cultural” importance to the state.  

In April, now resigned Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation Marlene Kairouz granted the O’Brien Group a special exemption to trade until 3am as the Job Warehouse was deemed a site of “cultural importance”.

“Everyone’s in support of something happening with the Job Warehouse and having it look better than it currently is,” nearby resident Jenny Eltham told CBD News in June.

“I think people were much more supportive of something smaller, more bespoke and more in keeping with the precinct … people are happy to have something there, but not something for 1000 people, and not until 3am.”

Mr O’Brien said he had read every local objection and was intent on ensuring a workable outcome. 

He said that despite the severe impact of COVID-19 on Melbourne, he was optimistic about delivering a large hospitality venue in the near future.

“It’s a very challenging time and the city’s suffered a major blow. It is a ghost town at the moment,” he said.

“I think it’s needed more than ever, not to be beaten by the current conditions. And I think especially in this industry, most places won’t come back and we’re going to see some major closures in the city over the next two years. I’ve got a strong resolve, I love the city — this is my favourite block in the city. It’s where I go out, it’s where I dine, it’s the ‘old Melbourne’ and it’s got that old world charm.”

“I want to see the amenity of the area improved and actually I think it will be great for residents once it’s built, and for land prices in the area.” •

Mr O’Brien said the target demographic for Juliette’s Terrace was predominantly those 35-plus with a mix of city residents, workers, theatre audiences, international and interstate visitors and creatives.

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