Shisha bids snuffed

TWO shisha lounges wanting to operate along Beaufort Street have been rejected by Vincent council under its crackdown on smoking in town centres.

One of the pair, Petra Lounge at 624 Beaufort Street Mount Lawley, opened in August 2021 without authorisation from Vincent council to operate a shisha bar or build a smoking patio out back.

Operator Peter Davidson kept the place open some nights until 5am and noise complaints quickly rolled in.

The council wrote in September requesting Mr Davidson cease operating and submit a development application. But the business kept operating so Vincent staff asked him to limit the hours and turn the sound down. 

Noise complaints continued and four planning infringement notices followed, so the council ordered Petra shut in January: It closed late February pending the current application for approval.

Objections were lodged by 25 neighbours. 

Unliveable

Benjamin Scalley lives across the rear lane and said at the September 20 council meeting Petra made his home unliveable. 

“The noise when it was operating has been really very significant,” Dr Scalley said. 

“Our bedroom faces the outside area of this development. It hasn’t allowed us, when it’s operating, to sleep in our bedroom. We’ve needed to sleep on the floor in the living area on the opposite side of the house.

“The music has been routinely clearly audible throughout the whole house when in operation even when the windows are closed.” 

Thousands of dollars spent on shutters still hadn’t kept the noise out.

Dr Scalley, a public health physician who was previously director of environmental health in New South Wales, said he supported the council’s ongoing moves to reduce smoking and said given this was a tobacco venue it shouldn’t be approved. 

Vincent council’s been moving towards smoke-free town centres by 2025, starting the rollout at the end of 2022 with a ban on public smoking for the main strips of Leederville, Mount Hawthorn, North Perth, Beaufort Street and William Street.

They also have a draft policy in the works that heavily restricts new venues where smoking or selling tobacco is the main purpose from opening up next to residences, accommodation venues, schools, offices, and many other uses, and neither of these two shisha lounges would be allowed under those rules.

While that policy’s not yet formally adopted, councillors are required to give it ‘due regard’ when making any decisions. 

\Councillors unanimously voted against allowing Petra Lounge to open, heeding staff advice that it’d adversely impact the neighbours with noise and smoke emissions, contrary to rules in their planning scheme.

Councillors were more sympathetic to the other proposed venue, Marihana Café at 221 Beaufort Street Highgate, whose prospective operators had done everything by the book.

Applicant Giday Hailu said he’d built a rear patio and had been paying rent and bills on the venue for more than a year through the application process. His friend Sami Berhe told councillors: “Mr Giday and his business partner have done everything in his capacity to do what is required”, and said he’d be stuck with the lease until 2025.

But all councillors save one – Ashley Wallace – voted against Marihana opening, mainly on grounds neighbours would cop the smoke.

Marihana’s owners spent a lot of time and money on what was ultimately a doomed application after believing a shisha lounge would be allowed under the building’s approved use as a “café”, and that they’d just need approval to build a patio.

They applied to build the patio in mid-2021 and Mr Giday was upfront that it was for smoking. That is allowed under Vincent’s rules, but only if it’s for incidental café smoking. A primary use as a shisha bar is a whole other category and requires council to more closely consider impacts on neighbours. 

Smoke impact

It wasn’t until December 2021, six months into the application process, when Marihana submitted documents with the full name “Marihana Shisha Café” that Vincent planning officers realised the true nature of the operation.

They advised Mr Giday he needed council approval to open and there was no guarantee.

Deputy mayor Susan Gontaszewski said: “It’s very clear in my mind the applicant has tried to do the right thing. I understand the applicant is from Victoria and there are similar cafés there. 

“From the applicant’s perspective there may appear to be little difference between a café and a shisha lounge, but … from a planning perspective, that’s just not the case.”

Mayor Emma Cole said: “Just hearing from Sami and Giday, it’s very hard when you hear about the level of investment and belief in a business,” but added “I believe it was incumbent on the applicant to be clear from the outset… to declare up front that they were seeking to open a shisha bar.”

She said it could operate primarily as a café that had an “element” of smoking, “but it can’t be the predominant land use”.

by DAVID BELL

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