‘Beer barn’: Pub wins battle with residents to make COVID beer garden permanent
29th October 2023

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An inner-city pub has claimed victory over a group of nearby residents who were opposed to a new beer garden because of the noise generated by intoxicated patrons.

The Terminus Hotel in North Fitzroy applied for a permit last year to build a new beer garden in its car park, replacing a temporary drinking area allowed under COVID dining rules.

More than 40 residents in nearby streets objected to the plans after the Terminus set up a marquee tent and artificial lawn with room for 200 people in its residentially zoned car park during the pandemic.

The Terminus Hotel in North Fitzroy.Credit: Simon Schluter

The objectors said the makeshift beer garden had made their lives miserable and was antithetical to the pub’s branding as the “locals’ local”.

Those living in an adjoining apartment block on Brennand Street described the noise and antisocial behaviour from drinkers as unbearable.

“It’s not just noise, it’s really aggressive shrieking,” said one resident, who has since moved out of the area due to the beer garden.

In December last year, Yarra City Council rejected a permit application by the pub’s owners for a $1 million-plus redevelopment, which would have increased the pub’s capacity from 443 to 645 people.

The Terminus beer garden, with the neighbouring block of units in the background.

However, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has overturned the council decision, with the new beer garden given the green light, although the total number of patrons will remain capped at 443.

The tribunal found that the pub owner’s plans to reduce noise in the courtyard – including a new retractable roof, a limit of 30 patrons and a closing time of 10pm – would be sufficient for nearby residents.

VCAT senior members Philip Martin and Phil West said in their order that the pub did not need to be inaudible to nearby residents.

The temporary beer garden with a marquee.Credit: Scott McNaughton

“Rather, the applicant needs to demonstrate that through a combination of all of the proposed measures and design features, the relevant EPA [Environment Protection Authority] noise limits can be met and the noise outcome will be reasonable for those neighbours,” they said.

“We are satisfied that the applicant has met this requirement.”

Nearby residents say they are devastated at the result after a years-long battle with the pub over the temporary beer garden, which is still in operation under the state government’s relaxed rules for outdoor dining.

That program was due to end this month, one year after the end of the pandemic declaration, however a government spokesperson confirmed it would remain in place for another 12 months.

The Terminus brands itself as “the locals’ local”.Credit: Simon Schluter

“We were absolutely shocked and devastated that it was extended yet again,” said one resident, who asked not to be named. “Meaning we now have to continue to suffer from the use of this outdoor beer barn until the construction begins.”

While she objected to the beer garden being made permanent, resident Margaret Goding said it would at least have eased the noise issues compared to the current plastic marquee.

“There is little incentive for them to commence with new construction at least before the summer period is over, and it is likely to be much longer,” she said.

Craig Shearer, founder of Kick On Group, the company that owns the pub, welcomed the decision and said it would be a great outcome for all parties.

“The permit is heavily conditioned, and the acoustically engineered structure will provide a much improved buffer between the pub and the neighbours,” he said.

“I look forward to completing the renovation in 2024 and reigniting a positive partnership with the residents.”

A Yarra City Council spokesperson said the original planning application was refused based on a variety of factors, including the potential impacts to residents.

“Council will also continue to monitor residents’ concerns,” they said.

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