Rent-free decade sought for square tavern

JUST one new bid for a tavern at Kings Square has emerged from a second round of searching, and they want a decade without paying rent.

On Wednesday Fremantle council’s finance, policy, operations and legislation committee considered a tender submitted by the owners of Clancy’s Fish Pub to operate a cafe-cum- restaurant on the ground floor and small bar on the first floor of the council’s new Walyalup Civic Centre.

Although the tender wasn’t fully compliant with the council’s criteria, having lacked a business plan, the committee voted for the CEO to initiate negotiations to try and put together a deal. That vote has to go to full council for ratification.

Committee chair Hannah Fitzhardinge told the Herald the 10 years of free rent was longer than the council would like, but a generous grace period was in order given Clancy’s owners had offered to put up between $2.2m-$2.5m for the fit out.

She said there were similar commercial deals being struck in Perth’s CBD following the closure of many businesses during the Covid-19 shutdown.

“There’s a bit of desperation there,” Cr Fitzhardinge said.

She disagreed with putting the space on ice until the market improved or filling it with pop-up shops or galleries.

“It’s hard to know when [a market recovery] would be, and having it as a vacant space would be counter to the development, while you could do a pop-up to fill the space but it’s an empty shell and the council would have to put up the capital expenditure.”

If the council ratifies the full vote, the CEO will also have the scope to consider any other bids put forward.

A report to the committee said that seven “legitimately interested parties” had downloaded the tender specifications and three groups outside Clancy’s bid went a step further, but all bailed out citing the risk of investing when Covid-19 still loomed large  or the council’s restrictive requirements.

Mayor Brad Pettitt says the council has been “quite demanding” about the space which it wants open seven days a week and into the evening when other cafes have closed.

“The cost of that is that it reduces the amount of applicants,” Dr Pettitt said.

“We want Kings Square to be a great place where people want to hang out, where people come and linger, grab a meal while the kids are playing. 

“That asks a lot of any hospitality provider in the area, but I think a group like Clancy’s are able to deliver that.”

Clancy’s involvement has mollified some critics who saw disaster in building a tavern next to a playground in a council office, but the 10-year free rent didn’t go down well with many.

Federal Hotel owner Nik Jurin said it was “undermining everyone else in the area, all the other landlords.

“It’s a kick in the guts for ratepayers and the other landlords who strive for commercial return,” he said.

His comments were echoed by former ratepayers association chair Mark Woodcock, who has skin in the hospitality development game.

“It’s a massive devaluation of commercial property prices in Fremantle,” he said.

Invested

“How would the people who have invested $220m right across the way feel about this; I imagine they’d be asking ‘how are we going to lease out our shops’,” Mr Woodcock said.

“It’s raised the bar in terms of what businesses can ask.”

Clancy’s director Joe Fisher said he didn’t want to comment until after the vote, but Cr Fitzhardinge said they’d be a great operator for the square.

“They are a good community operator; they support the arts, they hold dog shows, they have all sorts of crazy – but good crazy – events.”

She said the new venue wouldn’t replace the original Clancy’s on Princess May Park, but would be a stand-alone venue with its own branding.

Another proposal submitted in January by Bar Orient owner Tony Taylor requested three years rent free, but sought 

$500,000 from the council towards the fit-out. The council knocked the free period back to two years, prompting Mr Taylor to drop the project.

Dr Pettitt revealed that the city still hadn’t locked in a tenant for the top floor of either the hospitality space or over its offices. The council has been in negotiations with the Rottnest Island Authority for some time, but Dr Pettitt said a final decision hadn’t been made.

by ASTRID DAINTON and STEVE GRANT

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