Venue number comes to Head

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt
Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt

When Sunset Events put in their initial proposal last year following the City’s call for an expression of interest for one of the J Sheds, the number of patrons they wanted was listed as 850.

Residents quickly hit back, citing the area’s historical and cultural significance both in indigenous history and white settlement history as too important to be put at risk with a proposal of that size.

At last Wednesday’s Strategic and General Services Committee meeting, officers announced that discussions with Sunset Events had lowered the number to 500 patrons, with the provision to expand at Council’s discretion depending on how successful the management of the lower patronage was.

However residents, many of whom cited their support for a small bar or cafe in the area, say 500 was still too many, and preferred a cap of 120.

Fremantle Inner City Residents Association chair Dick Baynham said the site was set aside as the most significant A-Class Reserve in the State and had to be treated as such.

‘To consider placing a huge beer garden on this site is the single most irresponsible and disrespectful thing this council could do to the people who elected them,’ he said.

‘Anyone who values the importance of Arthur Head as an A-Class Reserve and wants to see a reduction in the actual incidents and potential incidents of alcohol- fuelled anti-social behaviour at this site, simply wants to see the site treated respectfully.

‘Most of these people would accept a small bar or cafe with the appropriate licence for a maximum of 120 people.’

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said Council had much to consider after last week’s meeting.

‘Listening to the comments at the committee meeting on Wednesday night, many people seemed to be concerned about possible anti-social behaviour and Council will need to make sure we plan this out in the kind of venue we create and ensure we have legible, well-lit linkages around it,’ he said.

‘Some (residents) would only like a capacity of 120 but the evidence we have been presented with is capacity would need to be larger than this to be commercially viable.

‘While there has been some concern, there has also been significant support from the broader community for this proposal and Council’s role will be to make sure we get the overall balance right.’

Dr Pettitt also said claims made that the proposal was in contradiction to the City’s policy on licensed venues were ‘misguided’ because while the council would continue to strongly advocate for more small bars, he said at no point did they say there would be no agreement towards a larger venue.

The issue will go before full council at next week’s meeting.