THE newly licensed alfresco area on Bathers Beach has opened up a can of worms, with fiery debates about beach privatisation, social etiquette and fair dinkum Aussie culture.
Last week Bathers Beach House became the first restaurant to be granted a liquor license on an Aussie beach.
Technically, all alfresco areas in Fremantle are open to the non-paying public, but BBH lounges have “reserved for customers only” signs and when former council candidate Andrew Luobikis sat on one last Tuesday, he was asked by staff to buy something or leave.
• Andrew Luobikis tries out Bathers Beach House’s lounges on Tuesday; moments later he was told to buy something or leave.
“Eventually they got the owner on the phone and they came back to me and said I could stay,” says Mr Luobikis.
“But they asked me politely if I could move if a paying customer wanted to use it.”
Fremantle council posted on its Facebook page on Monday it had told BBH the lounges couldn’t be exclusively for customers, but it seems the advice hadn’t trickled down to staff before Mr Luobikis’s visit.
Mayor Brad Pettitt says Freo’s hybrid public/private alfresco system relied on social etiquette and had worked successfully since its introduction in 1998.
“I think this alfresco is suitable for an inner-city beach like Bathers, but it wouldn’t be suitable for somewhere like Leighton Beach, for example,” Dr Pettitt says.
“The BBH alfresco offers people a choice and there’s lots of space for everyone to enjoy our glorious beaches.”
Beach privatisation is big business in Europe, with hotels annexing great swathes of sand on the Mediterranean coastline.
Save Freo Beaches member Sally Raine says although the lounge area at Bathers Beach is small, it sets a dangerous Aussie precedent.
“As the first nationwide licence of its kind, it will set a precedent for others to follow suit, inevitably it could result in the gradual privatisation of beaches as in many parts of Europe and Asia,” she says.
“Fremantle’s beaches should always be available for use by the wider public including Freo locals and should not have exclusive use areas. “
What locals are saying on the Herald’s Facebook page:
Penelope Pop: “It is not in the culture of Fremantle to have privilege to those who pay. A good protest would be all the locals setting up huge umbrellas and sun-tents right in front of these chairs so the privileged can’t see the water.
Chris Mills: “Great ideas, about time we started to catch up to the rest of the world.”
Michelle Cunningham: “Thin edge of the wedge. To please tourists and bring in extra $ for the restaurant.”
Shelley James: “Elites out of Fremantle,”
by STEPHEN POLLOCK