Geraldton grog shop battle over as construction starts on Con’s Liquor in Utakarra

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Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
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Contractors spreading yellow sand before comacting it at the Con's Liquor store site in Utakarra Road on Friday.
Camera IconContractors spreading yellow sand before comacting it at the Con's Liquor store site in Utakarra Road on Friday. Credit: Geoff Vivian/The Geraldton Guardian, Geoff Vivian

After six years and vehement opposition over its location in Utakarra, ground has been broken on what will be Geraldton’s biggest liquor store.

Works started last week on Con’s Liquor Geraldton on Utakarra Road, next to the empty IGA building, which used to run a drive-through bottle shop.

Support for the 1200sqm liquor emporium has been far from unanimous, with local MP Ian Blayney, other liquor retailers, the police commissioner, Aboriginal community groups, and the Rangeway Utakarra Karloo Progress Association all opposing the development in recent years.

Objections also included the likelihood it would drive down liquor prices, making cheap booze more readily available to people at risk.

But Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said it was great to see a family-owned business from Perth moving to the Mid West city.

“It shows people in Perth are recognising the growth potential of Geraldton,” he said.

“The city welcomes all new investment in Geraldton and looks forward to more jobs being provided in town, and particularly in the Utakarra area.”

Amid the opposition, owner Peter Jeffree has fought appeals in the Liquor Commission and the Supreme Court. However, he is adamant Geraldton “needs it”.

“In our surveys, we found that 41 per cent of all the wine sold in this town comes in from mail order because the offer is not here,” Mr Jeffree said.

“The range we’ll be offering certainly will supplant anything they can get on mail order, price-wise and variety.

“The other thing is the range of spirits. Because of the size of the store, we’ll have plenty of range, and of course we will be very competitive on our pricing.”

Mr Blayney said he opposed the development because it was in the “wrong place”.

“It is the centre of a large State housing area,” he said.

“I said to him ‘if you wanted to convert an existing building in the CBD, I would do everything I could to help you’.

“I was told that in other places, people like him get approval on the basis that it is a family business, they build liquor stores like this and then sell them off to the majors.”

Mr Jeffree said the family had been in the trade since buying Con’s Liquor Store in Bunbury in 1983.

They sold it nine years later, and have since owned and operated similar businesses in five Perth suburbs.

“Just up here now, we’re buying two houses, so we’re not fly-in, fly-out,” he said.

“We’re permanent residents of this town and we spend our money in the town.”

Mr Jeffree said his son Michael would manage the store and they looked forward to supporting local sports such as hockey, golf and squash as they had done during their nine years in Bunbury.

Besides the 1200sqm liquor store, the development — being built by Crothers Construction — includes a 500sqm building to house one or more shops to be leased out.

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