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Hotel saga to continue

PLANS by the Town of Victoria Park to contest the liquor licence operating at the Babylon Hotel have been shelved because the owner is running for a council seat in the upcoming local elections.

Babylon Hotel owner and manager Geoff Chambers is chasing one of two seats available in the Victoria Park ward.

Mr Chambers is up against five other candidates, including sitting member John MacMillan.

The second sitting member, Cathy Taylor, is retiring from the town council.

Mr Chambers, who runs the Albany Highway hotel under a temporary liquor licence, has been involved in a long-running dispute with the town council over parking, signage and fencing at the premises.

The dispute has certainly been colourful, with at least one report of an altercation over the placement of a sign, with police called in.

This is the first time Mr Chambers has nominated for a council position but he denied it had anything to do with the dispute.

“I am running for council because I am not happy with the pace or the direction of development in Victoria Park and it is my intention to see that changed,” Mr Chambers said.

He declined to comment further on the friction between himself and the council.

In late March, Mr Chambers applied to the Directors of Liquor Licensing to vary the existing licence conditions.

At the hearing, the director heard council and resident concerns and referred the matter to the Liquor Licensing Court for further consideration.

Among the most-recent concerns listed is the building of a car park fence, out of materials inconsistent with council requirements, and the shifting of the car park boundaries without council approval.

An A-frame sign, often positioned on the intersection of Albany Highway and Westminster Street, is an issue of concern as it obscures sight lines for motorists.

Residents and the town council have indicated flowerboxes obstructing the footpath and stacks of limestone blocks in the hotel as problems.

The council had been planning to lodge a submission with the director that the protection licence, under which Mr Chambers is now operating the hotel, be cancelled or suspended.

But the action has now been deferred until after the May 5 elections.

A protection licence is an interim measure that allows a person to operate premises on short notice until a decision on the granting of a permanent liquor license can be made.

Mr Chambers’ protection order is due to be renewed in late May.

In the unconfirmed minutes of the April 10 council meeting it is stated that the council believes problems associated with the Babylon Hotel have “largely emanated from the owner and licensee”.

“… the Town and potentially the residents see an opportunity for the hotel to operate compatibly with the adjoining residential area and the issues and concerns in the past have resulted from the ownership and management of the hotel,” the minutes say.

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