City of Greater Geraldton approves development applicaton for Fitzgerald Street microbrewery

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Elise Van AkenGeraldton Guardian
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Dennis and Lynette Healy are looking forward to opening the doors of Batavia Brewing Company.
Camera IconDennis and Lynette Healy are looking forward to opening the doors of Batavia Brewing Company. Credit: Geraldton Guardian/Elise Van Aken

The restaurateurs behind Geraldton’s planned microbrewery hope to have their doors open and taps flowing by late March, after their development application received council approval.

On Tuesday night at their November meeting, City of Greater Geraldton councillors voted 10 votes to two to grant SVS Pty Ltd approval to develop the former nightclub and fitness centre building at 60 Fitzgerald Street into a microbrewery and reception centre.

The permission was given under numerous conditions, including the business being allowed to open only from 10am on school days, with loading and unloading only to be conducted on the premises.

Mayor Shane Van Styn, who will lease the building to Batavia Brewing Company proprietors Dennis and Lynette Healy, excused himself from the debate and vote because he had a conflict of interest being the majority owner of the property.

The decision came after 33 of 215 submissions received by the council were in opposition, including one from the WA Education Department, with concerns ranging from antisocial behaviour near the neighbouring Geraldton Primary School, parking and traffic congestion around school open to closing times, noise, odour emissions and rubbish generation.

Mr Healy said the couple were relieved to have certainty they could brew beer on site, which would have already been allowed to operate as a restaurant and serve alcohol under its zoning, after a “long process”.

“There was a tremendous amount of support for it and we were really thrilled to see that,” he said.

“There’s always going to be the odd person that’s not in favour ... people think this is going to be a pub, and it’s not.

“Yes, it’s going to sell alcohol but most restaurants do. The point of difference is we will make our own beer.”

He said there would not be displays of drunkenness outside the building which would affect the school because the business would be abiding by all liquor licensing and responsible service of alcohol requirements, with noise from patrons and brewing equipment contained within the soundproofed building.

“We can’t serve people who are intoxicated and there won’t be people taking bottles out because there will only be glasses inside anyway,” he said.

“I actually think (the building) does have sufficient parking ... if people are coming for a night out they’ll often come in a cab. If they’re coming for lunch or dinner, they’ll often come in groups.

“The majority will be outside of local school hours anyway.”

There’s always going to be the odd person that’s not in favour . . . people think this is going to be a pub, and it’s not.

Local tradespeople have already been engaged to transform the site’s interior into a family-friendly venue, complete with function rooms, a commercial kitchen, brewing area, spacious staff rooms, a dining space, a children’s play area and a lobby decorated with nautical memorabilia.

Cr Kim Parker spoke against the motion, with the former Geraldton Primary School Parents and Citizens Association president saying his objection was not to having a microbrewery in Geraldton, but its location.

“Traffic and parking in the area is at a premium during school hours ... at 60 Fitzgerald Street there are only 26 parking bays and one disabled (bay),” he said.

“For 300 patrons plus staff, it does not add up to me ... 24 street parking bays are premium at school pick-up and drop-off times. For four or five hours children aged five to 11 will be witnessing people intoxicated leaving licensed premises. It is not a good way to educate our next generation.”

He said the school and related stakeholders were concerned the venue’s impact on the school when it was a nightclub would be repeated, with the former gardener having to work extra hours so students wouldn’t be exposed to broken glass and other obscene litter on school grounds.

Cr Parker told the Geraldton Guardian the school was looking at creating a bus bay near Maitland Park on the opposite side of the school to ease traffic congestion in the area.

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