Published on November 1st, 2017 | by Eva Cripps0
TO INNER-WEST CITY COUNCIL – GIVE SAUCE BREWING A FAIR GO
Long-time BikeMe! member, Mike Clarke, has created a brewery and made the world a better place.
He has run into issues from greedy developers and a local council which has decided fairness is something that doesn’t apply in Mike’s case. BikeMe! has always supported its members and BikeMe! loves beer.
Eva Cripps takes up the banner for the brewery.
“It’s really difficult to get a small business up off the ground”, declared Inner West Council, Mayor Darcy Byrne, at the opening of Sauce Brewing Co. He didn’t follow with the often-heard quote, “Small business is the backbone of the economy”, but he should have.
Communities are built on local industry and thrive with well-supported small businesses. Local people depend on small business for employment. The neighbourhood spirit engendered by small business fosters a sense of belonging and shared values; the corner shop staffed by three generations, the mechanic who has serviced the family vehicle for decades, the boutique store selling unique gifts and fashions, and the friendly craft brewery, where everyone is welcome to sample the sauce or have a glass of wine or apple juice if beer does not tempt the palate.
With over 97% of Australian businesses classed as “small business”, it is no surprise elected representatives, from the Federal Minister for Small Business, Hon Michael McCormack MP, to local government Mayor Darcy Byrne, are throwing promises and commitment and support to those brave enough to take a risk and embrace the culture of “innovation, investment and opportunity”.
And so it is deeply disappointing that Sauce Brewing Co, a new small business in Marrickville, NSW, has been subjected to devastating and unprecedented action by the Inner West Council which will significantly impact on the viability of the business.
When Mike Clarke stepped away from a decades-long and secure career in IT and telecommunications in late 2016, he knew he was taking a risk. His home brewery had literally taken over his house and so Mike took the leap. Launching Sauce Brewing Co as a Gypsy Brewer in November 2016, he quickly gained a following across NSW and further afield with his Hop Sauce pale ale and Mega-Hop Sauce, a double IPA. As Sauce Brewing Co’s popularity grew, so too did the beers on offer. Mike released a summer seasonal saison, and then the Extra-Hop Sauce IPA.
Working hard to establish a permanent base in an industrial area of Marrickville, Mike navigated through the various levels of bureaucracy and regulation required. In February 2017, Sauce obtained approval to use the premises as a microbrewery and taproom, and in July 2017, a liquor licence was granted with no objections from the Council. Work on the premises was completed in September 2017 and an Occupation Certificate was issued, allowing Sauce Brewing Co to trade.
Yet by the official opening on 14 October 2017, the eagerly anticipated craft brewery was already under threat.
On 29 August 2017, a local business which is also a developer with a keen interest in re-zoning the site so it can build a strip of apartment towers, lodged an application to have Sauce Brewing Co’s license to operate revoked. Its reasons were ridiculous and entirely unsubstantiated by facts. Yet planning bureaucrats caved into pressure and applied to Liquor & Gaming NSW to impose unusual and excessive restrictions and conditions on the fledgling business.
It proposed to significantly reduce the patron capacity at Sauce Brewing Co’s taproom from 200 to 60, as well as prohibit Sauce Brewing Co from offering alcohol not produced on-site (eg, Mike could not sell a glass of wine to a customer).
When the local Mayor, Darcy Byrne, officially opened Sauce Brewing Co on 14 October 2017, he gave a commitment that “this new elected council will set a goal of making the inner west the craft brewing capital of Australia.”
He promised that he would “establish an Inner West Craft Beer Festival” and “celebrate all of the existing brewers here… who have popped up organically and established a really strong sector.”
He also wanted “to encourage new breweries to open.”
And so the situation Mike and his team find themselves in is gravely concerning. The elected mayor is being undermined by Council staff with an application which is arguably unlawful. The submission from the Inner West Council planners is at complete odds with not only the publicly-stated policy of the Council, but also violates the basic principles of local government.
The application to Liquor & Gaming NSW to hobble a new and much-supported business sends a contemptible message to all passionate innovators keen to invest in the inner west.
The Local Government Act 1993, section 8, provides principles to enable councils to “carry out their functions in a way that facilitates local communities that are strong, healthy and prosperous.”
Attempting to impose unfair and unreasonable conditions on a business after having no objections during the approvals process is not even remotely facilitating a local community that is strong, healthy and prosperous.
It sends quite the opposite message.
The Act is not the slightest bit ambiguous in the principles it provides to councils to exercise their functions. Section 8A states that councils should “provide strong and effective representation, leadership, planning and decision-making.”
Capitulating to the demands of a hostile developer to the detriment of a committed, passionate and dedicated entrepreneur does not demonstrate strong and effective representation. Sauce Brewery Co has unnecessarily and in good faith offered a compromise to half the existing patron numbers, yet the bureaucrats have gone beyond this with its proposal for barely more than a quarter. The recommendation to strip Sauce Brewing Co of its approval to sell other alcoholic drinks is mean-spirited and vindictive.
The Act also requires that councils “carry out functions in a way that provides the best possible value for residents and ratepayers.”
Severely restricting the patrons to a new craft brewery is a terrible decision which provides the poorest value for residents and ratepayers. Craft Brewing Co has invested in a fit-out, marketing and promotional activities based on a license allowing 200 patrons. It has a spacious taproom and beer garden. It has employed local people to serve neighbours, visitors and tourists. It has operated without incident and has complied with all existing conditions.
The Council application to restrict Sauce Brewing Co’s licence is a waste of ratepayer resources and will result in debilitating loss to Mike and his team. It has not acted “fairly, ethically and without bias in the interests of the local community.” If the Council application is successful it will devastate Sauce Brewing Co’s excellent reputation as a family friendly craft brewery and result in Mike turning away patrons while a smattering of beer drinkers barely fill the once-vibrant taproom.
Mayor Byrne recognised the many difficulties in launching a small business. He recognised the issues with red tape and bureaucracy. The Mayor and other Councillors are almost certainly aware of the message this situation sends to other craft brewers and businesses looking to invest in the Inner West.
When making decisions, councils are obliged to “recognise diverse local community needs and interests”, “consider social justice principles”, “consider the long term and cumulative effects of actions on future generations”, and “be transparent and … accountable for decisions”.
A Council which does not stand by lawful and reasonable approvals, a Council which does not act fairly, ethically and in the interests of the local community, a Council which puts the interests of one vexatious party above everyone else is not a Council which supports small business. It is not a Council which encourages craft breweries to open and it forms the antithesis to a strong sector and a healthy and prosperous community.
The power is in the hands of the Councillors. Uphold the principles of the Local Government Act and give Sauce Brewing Co a fair go, or build a reputation that the inner west is not open for business.