29/10/2018 - 15:46

Popular Northbridge bar in limbo

29/10/2018 - 15:46

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The future of the Perth Cultural Centre’s Picabar has been placed in doubt, after its operators disclosed their lease had been terminated by the state government, which has transferred management of the precinct to the Perth Theatre Trust.

Popular Northbridge bar in limbo
Picabar will remain in operation while expressions of interest are taken. Photo Attila Csaszar

The future of the Perth Cultural Centre’s Picabar has been placed in doubt, after its operators disclosed their lease had been terminated by the state government, which has transferred management of the precinct to the Perth Theatre Trust.

The venue, which was sub-leased from the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA), has been operating month to month since 2012, when it’s original six-month lease expired.

The bar's operators received a letter from PICA last Thursday saying the premises must be vacated within three weeks.

This followed a change in lease arrangements, triggered by the Perth Theatre Trust taking charge of the precinct.

Co-owner of Picabar Melissa Bowen told Business News she had discussed the matter with the Trust and director of the Cultural Centre Paolo Amaranti on Friday, and was asked to remain in operation while the Trust ran an expression of interest process for a new operator.

However, this has left the business unable to guarantee job security for staff, she said, meaning many now had to decide whether to pursue a new job in time for Christmas.

Ms Bowen said she and fellow owners Brian Buckley and Conor Buckley had previously received verbal assurances from the government that the lease would be renewed, and had received no other contact until the letter last Thursday.

She said the business would be a major loss for the Perth Cultural Centre, and was keen to work with the government to find a beneficial solution.

Ms Bowen said she had already offered to pay more rent, and increase the level of investment in building maintanance.

“They could win – get more rent, get a better venue, do the right thing,” she said.

“The only reason there could be a loser in this situation is if someone else has been promised our business.”

Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries director general Duncan Ord, who is also general manager of the Perth Theatre Trust, said the expression of interest process was standard, and Picabar was encouraged to apply.

“PICA’s notice to (Picabar) to vacate is a normal part of this transition process as PICA will no longer have control over the bar area,” Mr Ord told Business News.

“The building will revert to the state and will be leased to the Perth Theatre Trust.

“As the new leaseholders from the November 15, PTT have told (Picabar) that they can stay on until the end of the EOI process, which could take up to three months.

“As this will be a new sublease the PTT’s decision to put out an EOI for the bar follows the usual government standards for procurement practice to ensure fairness and transparency.”

Earlier today, Ms Bowen - who reopened the bar after it had been shuttered for 12 years - told 6PR she had been frustrated by the lack of certainty over the lease.

“Nobody really cared about that government asset when it was boarded up for so long," she said.

"Nobody really cared about it then and nobody really cared about it in the time that we have been there.

No-one has done any work on the building or given us the security to be able to invest our own money in the building.

“Now that opportunity is being realised, with the new museum coming online … it looks like it’s going to be handed to someone else and I would not be surprised if there a lot more interest in it now that we’ve build something in it than there was in 2012.”

 

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