Marrickville microbrewer Sauce Brewing Co opened its brewery and taproom door just one month ago. An objection from a neighbouring developer has already thrown a spanner in the works.
“It’s a long, horrible saga,” says Mike Clarke. Clarke owns the brewery with his wife, Kate McBean. “In July we were granted a liquor licence for a venue that allows 200 patrons. A business in Victoria Road is kicking up a stink and trying to get the licence revoked.”
The objection, which concerns how taproom patrons might negatively affect the community, falls under a new state-government process by which anyone can object to a liquor licence 28 days after it’s issued.
“This hasn’t happened before,” Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne tells Broadsheet. “I think it’s unfortunate and I don’t understand why it’s occurred. Sauce Brewing Co is going to add to the attractiveness of the neighbourhood. People consume alcohol very differently in a tasting room than they do in the beer barns of the former Kings Cross,” he says.
The council responded to the objection by proposing a reduction in Sauce’s capacity to 60 patrons and a prohibition on the brewery selling drinks not produced on site. That could include a glass of wine or one of the guest brews Sauce rotates on tap.
“It’s quite devastating having a business set up for a certain number of people, investing in amenities and infrastructure,” says Clarke. “One hundred people is about the lowest number we could accept and still survive.”
Byrne says the proposed change from 200 to 60 patrons is based on outdated regulation that defines the primary and secondary use of a site. In Sauce's case, the primary use is to brew beer, and the secondary use is to serve beer in a taproom. After reviewing Sauce based on the objection, the council is interpreting “secondary use” to mean a smaller number of patrons (60). However, it’s not clear why Sauce was granted a 200-patron capacity in the first place.
“We have to change the rules so Sauce and other craft brewers have a simpler and fairer set of regulations, and that’s what I’m going to deliver,” says Byrne.
Part of Byrne’s election platform was to make the Inner West the craft-brewing capital of Australia, so lifting the burden of red tape is a priority. But change won’t come soon enough for Sauce, whose licence is being reviewed in mid-November. Liquor & Gaming will hear from the brewer, the council and the developer.
The best outcome would be for the council to accept Sauce’s request for a 100-patron limit. Under Byrne’s proposed changes, Sauce could apply to increase that number in the future.
“Council is trying to do the right thing, but I believe they have erred in their judgement,” says Clarke. “We want council to support the business as it is.”
Sauce has started a petition on change.org to encourage the council to reconsider its decision.