“Extension by stealth” is how some objectors have described changed operating conditions for Holgates Brewhouse’s discovery centre and beer gardens.
Macedon Ranges Shire Council has admitted to lifting two planning conditions that controlled operating hours and alcohol consumption at the Woodend venue, without community consultation.
When in place, the conditions restricted visitor centre and garden hours to 5pm weekdays and 6pm weekends, and service in these zones to beer only.
The conditions were removed from the permit in October 2019. Neighbours only learnt of the change after reporting noise disturbance and investigating the permit history.
“Had we been made aware we would have objected very strongly,” neighbouring resident Chris Knauf said.
He addressed the council on behalf of eight Anslow Street residents last month.
“It’s almost as if Holgates has sought to have an extension to their public bar by stealth rather than actually applying for that in the very first place.
“All of us support the Holgate enterprise and we support all local business and we’re absolutely thrilled if they prosper and do well, but when it impinges on the enjoyment of our homes we feel that it’s going too far,” he said.
In 2017 the pub received a $1.5 million state government grant to build the brewing discovery centre and showroom. The upgrade was to act as a tourist drawcard and create 15 local jobs.
Representing Holgates, MinterEllison’s Jarryd Gray said limiting operating hours to 5pm for the discovery centre and gardens would “be a great shame and an underutilisation of the land in the commercial one zone”.
Mr Gray said nearby venues were licensed until 11pm and that Holgates would need to make at least three staff redundant by virtue of reduced trading if the conditions were reinstated.
He also argued that preventing the service of food alongside beer was inconsistent with the responsible service of alcohol.
MRSC director of planning Angela Hughes told councillors in June the application to remove the conditions “was decided by planning officers in error”.
Ms Hughes said the council applied to Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to reinstate the conditions to correct the error.
The conditions were advertised in April and attracted three objections representing 14 individuals.
A VCAT merits hearing will take place in September and councillors seek to strike a balance between Holgates’ plans and objectors’ interests in adopting its position.
The council will advocate to remove conditions limiting the sale and consumption of alcohol in the discovery centre and gardens, and allow the indoor area to operate until 9pm (all days).
The council will also seek other conditions including a cap on patrons and a ban on amplified music in these spaces.
A VCAT merits hearing over the matter will take place on September 6-7.