SUNSET Events fears Fremantle council’s decision to scale back its proposed bar and concert venue at Arthur Head makes the $3 million project unviable, but is still willing to give it a shot.
Wednesday’s council meeting followed a raucous 200-strong special electors’ meeting Monday that demanded the project be scrapped: the council decided instead to more than halve the number of patrons from 850 to 400 and cut ticketed events from 15 to 12 a year.
“I think council listened to the community which made it clear they’re concerned about the scale of the project,” Sunset managing director David Chitty told the Herald after the vote. “We will start with a smaller capacity and see how it goes. We need to have a look at the financial side now that we know council’s decision. I think council made an appropriate decision.”
In a five-hour debate over whether to approve the project, which comes with a 21-year lease, councillors voted eight to five in support of the scaled back venture.
Cr Andrew Sullivan described scaling back the proposal as “cutting off your nose to spite your face”.
“You’ve killed it because you have taken away the ability to create the very thing we have asked for” he told colleagues, saying Sunset had claimed it needed 500 just to break even.
“This is about getting the credentials of this place as a viable and genuine art hub.”
Cr Josh Wilson said the site had the potential to become a world-class venue attracting acts such as Paul Kelly, Missy Higgins and Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu.
Cr Dave Coggin also opposed scaling it back saying, “you can’t be half pregnant”. He said it should be either a vibrant medium-sized venue or nothing.
Cr Bill Massie said size did matter: “If Sunset Events can’t make it work, they’re in the wrong place.”
Cr Rachel Pemberton said even scaled back, the project concerned her: “Part of my uncertainty is having a large venue for a long time. To have both is disconcerting.”
From the public gallery, Pat Winnicott said the council had put Roundhouse volunteers through “two years’-plus of angst, while you shilly-shallied over whether we could stay or go because some councillors thought the area should be an artist’s hub, when it’s heritage. We volunteer because we love the area and enjoy imparting our knowledge on history and architecture.”
Former deputy mayor John Dowson urged the council to scrap the proposal entirely and find a new location: “no tinkering, no compromise. Find another location.”
Historian Bob Reece described the application as “a piece of official vandalism” that will destroy the ambience of an area.
Mayor Brad Pettitt remains confident the development will transform the precinct into a world-class arts and entertainment centre: “It will put Freo on the map.”
by CARMELO AMALFI