While Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council recently congratulated itself on being one of the first councils to join the NSW government's Small Business Friendly program, the experience of a newcomer suggests the council isn't as friendly as it could be.
The new publican of the Globe Hotel, Chris Cooper, moved to Cootamundra three months ago from Newcastle, with his wife and children, two of whom now go to school here.
He felt greatly attracted to Cootamundra as a good family environment.
As someone who has been involved in the hotel industry all his life, he was confident he had found a good business opportunity because his research had shown a lot of young people in the town were keen for the venue to re-open.
"We found many young people have been driving to Young or Wagga then driving home again the same night so it was a safety issue to have a place they could walk to or get to easily here," Mr Cooper said.
The Globe has been continuously licensed, but hasn't traded for the past twelve months since it was sold.
Mr Cooper is leasing the hotel, and was exploring the possibility of buying it.
The place needed a lot of work, and Mr Cooper and his wife worked non-stop cleaning, painting, repairing, replastering and renovating everything including the beer systems downstairs in preparation for their planned grand opening on 29 June.
However when the Herald spoke with Mr Cooper on Monday he was so depressed he was considering cutting his losses and going elsewhere despite a huge investment of time and money.
The reason? A representative of the Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council has told him he faces large fines if he opens again.
"We bought everything we used for the renovations locally, and people commented that they would see the lights on still at 1am while my wife and I were working," Mr Cooper told the Herald.
"We got the place ready in time for the opening, but just two days before the 29th we were visited by a council inspector who said we wouldn't be allowed to open because we didn't have a fire certificate.
"No-one had spoken to me about this beforehand but I agreed immediately. I prepared a fire plan and submitted the drawings to council, and they were approved and printed by the council and we mounted them properly inside the hotel as required."
The re-opening went ahead as planned with 240 mainly young patrons having a great night, and Mr Cooper was looking forward to seeing his hard work and investment pay off.
But a week later, the same council officer visited just an hour before opening time on the Friday night and said "you will not be opening".
"He told me he had gone back and done research on the pub and it would need a development application which would have to go back through council again," Mr Cooper said.
"I told him I took fire safety very seriously and had already organised with the local fire safety authority to do everything needed to get a fire certificate - something many other businesses in town don't have - but he said 'it's going to be pointless because you've got so many other things that weren't approved years ago'.
"Supposedly our kitchen was never approved - even though it's been running for I don't know how long - and we don't have an approved dance floor, even though we've got video of people dancing here ten years ago or more.
"And we needed a disabled toilet, even though there's one next door, the toilets we do have can be used with a wheelchair, and many other premises in town don't have a disabled toilet.
"He's just made it impossible to the point where I just feel like I've wasted a tonne of money and I'm probably just going to have to pack up and there goes anything for young people.
"He's putting up more and more till it gets to the stage I just get a feeling he doesn't want me here.
"If the license had expired and it was a new business that was reopening they would have every right to ask for these new requirements but the license has never been out of date and is current now."
Mr Cooper said rumours had started to circulate that he had been fined $40,000 for not having bar staff with responsible service approval - which he said was completely untrue - but once rumours start to circulate they are hard to stamp out.
He said on his second visit the council officer had been accompanied by two licensing police, who had said they had no problems with the business.
Shane Friend, manager of Coota Entertainment, said his family had been interested in buying the hotel six months ago, and had been assured by council that it was an ongoing concern and could trade as it was on a walk-in walk-out basis.
The Herald asked Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council to specify in writing what its requirements were and received the following email response:
"Council has not undertaken a full inspection however has met with the occupier on the site to discuss compliance.
"Issues identified raised concerns by both Council and the NSW Police.
"The occupier was unable to assure compliance and therefore chose not to operate.
"Council is currently attempting to assist the occupant and owner of the building to rectify the issues."
The council did not name the officer involved. Nor did it respond to the Herald's question about the nature of any of the concerns it has. Further, it spoke on behalf of NSW Police, again without specifying any issue with which they were supposedly concerned.
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