One striking example of how local councils are interfering with the intent of Western Australia’s new liquor licensing laws is found on the sleeve of the wine list and menu at the state’s first approved small bar, the Essex St Organic Wine Bar in Fremantl
One striking example of how local councils are interfering with the intent of Western Australia’s new liquor licensing laws is found on the sleeve of the wine list and menu at the state’s first approved small bar, the Essex St Organic Wine Bar in Fremantle.
It advises its customers that, if they have chosen to sit in the bar’s alfresco area, they will have to buy a meal with their wine.
That’s despite the fact that the venue is, in fact, a wine bar, not a restaurant.
Located across two floors of a heritage building, the 120-capacity venue is the kind of place that would be quite at home in a different setting, like Melbourne.
But any customers from that southern city would be more than a little bemused that they couldn’t enjoy a glass of organic wine, sunshine and fresh air without having to order a meal too.
According to Essex St co-owner Sheryl Small, Perth customers are much the same.
“We put that [meal requirement] on there because people were ordering a drink and being told they have to order food, and they would get upset,” Mrs Small said.
“We didn’t like it either.”
It’s a requirement operators would have expected from the old liquor licensing system. But this time around it’s Mrs Small’s local council, the City of Fremantle, that has imposed the meal provision.
The City of Fremantle, while supportive of small bars and liquor without a meal permits for restaurants, is firmly opposed to letting patrons sit back in alfresco areas and have a glass of wine.
Fremantle Mayor Peter Tagliaferri said when people sat out on the footpath areas it “becomes very difficult to distinguish which part is the licensed venue and which part isn’t.
“It’s about putting the interests of the community first and maintaining the amenity of public footpaths for anyone who may be passing by,” Mr Tagliaferri said.
“You don’t want a situation where, once the pubs and clubs shut, patrons then stagger over to the nearest cafe to continue getting a skinful and then harass other people.
“We are not wowsers but we want the city to be a place for civilised drinking with a family atmosphere, not a large boozing area.”
A similar situation is likely to unfold in Subiaco.
In its liquor licensing policy, adopted on October 16, the city has specifically stated that a meal must be served to patrons wishing to consume alcohol in the alfresco area of a small bar.
The policy also restricts the issuing of licences within 100 metres of the Rokeby Road and Hay Street intersections, as well as no small bar licences being issued where there are more than two other licensed premises within 100 metres that cater for more than 40 people.
Liquor licensing lawyers have begun advising clients they are better off avoiding councils like Subiaco and should look to develop bars in places such as the City of Perth.
And that is exactly where the movement is occurring.
Of the nine small bar applications lodged with the Department of Racing and Gaming for the metropolitan area, five have been for bars located within the City of Perth.
Two of these – West Perth’s Amphoras and Queen Street’s 1907 Bar – have been approved.
There are two applications pending approval in Leederville, one to be called Double Lucky is planned for Newcastle Street, and Bar Rosso Wines is under development on Oxford Street.
The City of Subiaco has approved a liquor licence at the city end of Hay Street but its operators are awaiting liquor licensing approval, while the City of Fremantle is assessing its second small bar application.
Two applications have been received for bars in the South West.
Antonio Vilaca, the manager of Amphoras Bar in West Perth, said the application took some time, but that the time and energy was worth it.
He now comes to work at the bar he helped create.
Amphoras, adopted from amphora, a ceramic vase that was supposedly the first bottle of wine created by ancient Greeks, is a modern, upmarket bar with a serious wine list and an in-house chef preparing everything from freshly shucked oysters to seared quail and lamb cutlets.
Mr Vilaca said the business did not advertise its opening five weeks ago, but had been busy since it opened the doors. He said it took just seven weeks to get planning approval from the City of Perth.
Mrs Small, whose daughter, Rosie, has managed the business since it opened three months ago, is also pleased with the response.
But she won’t be looking to open a small bar in Fremantle again.
“I didn’t think it would be easy but I had no idea how hard it would be,” Mrs Small told WA Business News.
She said dealing with the council was a “bureaucratic nightmare” that involved engaging surveyors, engineers and other specialists.
“They make you jump hurdles,” she said.
However, Mrs Small said the “liquor licensing part was a walk in the park”.
She did not employ a lawyer to work through the application but her daughter worked full-time for six months to gain planning approvals and complete the fit-out.