Enjoy the Fare

Cockburn Gazette

6th February 2020.

The hospitality veteran given a generous deal by Fremantle council to breathe life into its Kings Square redevelopment intends to bring a touch of European culture when he opens Fremantle Doctor Restaurant and Bar later this year.

Bar Orient lessee Tony Taylor, who has run that venue for 14 years, was last week granted a 10-year lease with a 10-year option to run Fremantle Doctor across three floors of the redeveloped civic building.

The tenant will pump $1.25m into the restaurant’s fit-out ahead of an intended opening later this year but it was the City of Fremantle’s willingness to contribute $500,000 and forgo the first two years’ rent that drew the ire of some in the port city.

The original lease proposal that came to a rowdy council meeting last Wednesday asked for three years’ free rent, but Mayor Brad Pettitt and councillors pulled it back to two years, with the third year’s rent fixed at 2 per cent of the lessee’s gross income.

Tony Taylor says helping give Kings Square a ‘European flavour’ is the aim for Fremantle Doctor – the restaurant and bar venue he will develop in the port city’s new civic heart.

The Bar Orient lessee was last week granted a ratepayer-backed 10-year lease with a 10-year option to run the venue across three floors of the redeveloped civic building.

The tenant will pump $1.25m into the restaurant’s fit-out ahead of an intended opening later this year but it was Fremantle council’s willingness to contribute $500,000 and forgo the first two years’ rent that drew the ire of some in the port city.

Mr Taylor, whose offer was the only one received during a leasing campaign period, said he would take inspiration from European and make the ground venue a place people could enjoy a quiet drink or casual bite to eat.

Upstairs will feature more formal dining and space for small functions, with the second level used as an event space.

“I’ve visited venues such as The Shoe at Yagan Square and The Reveley at Elizabeth Quay and how they’ve worked and I believe this is the right venue for Fremantle,” Mr Taylor said.

“I believe there will be lighting and CCTV cameras and more people using the area will help it become safer.

“Some people used the term booze barn to describe our proposal but it shows they don’t understand the proposal; it won’t be a pub with loud bands.

“I’m imaging a low-key acoustic singer and people enjoying a beer or glass of wine.”

Kings Square is undergoing a $270 million redevelopment with the City partnering with Sirona Capital, for a new civic building, library, government offices and the FOMO retail, food and art concept.

City officers had suggested the rent-free period and other incentives were necessary given it was a difficult time to be marketing and leasing commercial space.

The council’s $500,000 expenditure would have been needed to make the hospitality space habitable even if the City did not have a tenant.

As part of the lease agreement, the third year’s rent will be 2 per cent of gross income, year four 5 per cent, the fifth year set at $233,100 and the sixth year to be worked out following a review.

The City of Fremantle believes the deal could realise $1.3 million for ratepayers across 10 years.

However Fremantle Chamber of Commerce chief executive Danicia Quinlan said she understood some businesses were uncomfortable with the council’s decision to go ahead with the lease.

“The arrival of over 1800 workers from the Department of Communities and Transport into the area, and the commencement of Little Lane apartments adjacent to this precinct will see an injection of local workers and residents to the area,” she said.

“However, as the lack of proposals put forward for this opportunity demonstrates, large scale hospitality venues come with significant commercial risk and uncertain demand in the current market.

“As a chamber we will watch closely to ensure the viability of these precincts live up to their commercial objectives, and that the City maintains its focus on core business and works hard to ensure strong and ethical commercial operators to bring these projects to fruition.”

Every councillor present on Wednesday night asked questions or about the matter as tempers flared ahead of their vote to approve the lease, 7-5.

Mayor Brad Pettitt said the proposal was a key part of the Kings Square development and given the “flat state” of the WA economy it was a “huge positive” that someone had been willing to invest into the venue.