Residents seek exemption U-turn

By David Schout 

CBD residents angered by plans to turn the 1840s built Job Warehouse into an almost 1000-patron bar will ask the new Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation Melissa Horne to change the 3am liquor licence exemption granted by now resigned minister Marlene Kairouz.

In April, Ms Kairouz granted pub operators the O’Brien Group a special exemption to trade until 3am at their proposed Bourke St venue as it was deemed a site of “cultural importance”.

But on June 16 the minister quit after details emerged of her alleged involvement in wide scale Labor Party branch stacking, alongside factional ally Adem Somyurek.

On June 22, Melissa Horne was appointed to the portfolio and local resident Jenny Eltham – one of more than 80 objectors to the proposal – said they would ask the new minister for the exemption to be scrapped.

“We’re going to ask the question,” she said.

“As soon as we know who it is, we’ve got emails ready to go questioning the decision.”

Locally, there is widespread consensus that the dilapidated Job Warehouse site, which has stood in disrepair for a number of years, needs renewal.

But residents believe the current proposal falls well short of what is appropriate for the area.

“It’s not a popular outcome,” Ms Eltham said. 

“Everyone’s in support of something happening with the Job Warehouse and having it look better than it currently is. 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 (catering) for 1000 people, and not until 3am. Some of those apartments are only six metres away.”

A hearing for the licence is set to go before the state’s liquor commission after the public notice period concludes on July 2. 

In 2008, the Brumby government introduced a freeze on late-night liquor licences 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.  

Last month CBD News reported that the CBD’s two residents’ groups – EastEnders and Residents 3000 – both believed they were “misled” by the O’Brien Group. 

In meetings with the group, representatives were told the new venue would seek a 1am liquor licence, for between 300 and 400 patrons.

Instead, it included plans for a 3am licence and for 957 patrons. 

By way of comparison the nearby Imperial Hotel – also owned and operated by the O’Brien Group – operates more than three floors and has a maximum capacity of 894 patrons •

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