ATET sues City of Melbourne and Development Victoria over loss of business
The owners of former Docklands events space ATET have launched legal action against the City of Melbourne and Development Victoria, claiming they unlawfully shut down their business.
The business’s co-founder Jake Hughes said they had been left “no choice but to seek justice in court” after the council terminated ATET’s licence in June despite the business claiming it was “compliant”.
According to a statement of claim filed with the Supreme Court of Victoria, ATET is seeking damages after having lost an estimated $7 million since having to close its doors, just eight months after launching.
The closure came after the venue faced a barrage of noise complaints from nearby residents, who said the loud music had disturbed their peace and health.
The City of Melbourne issued a notice of default to ATET in May, after an Environment Protection Authority (EPA) report found the venue had breached noise regulations.
Mr Hughes said the notice of default failed to include any attachments of evidence of the business breaking their permit conditions.
He also alleged the business “repeatedly complied” with all the council’s requests and adjusted the venue’s noise limiter to ensure it met EPA standards.
“We have done everything the council has ever asked of us and have been repeatedly blindsided by their actions not matching their words. We are shocked at how unprofessional some of their behaviour has been,” he said.
Mr Hughes said he and his parents had put six years of work and all their savings into creating the business but now they now faced the prospect of bankruptcy and losing their family home.
“The City of Melbourne claim to be a champion of the live music scene, but they have rejected every attempt to save our venue, which was cherished by the music community,” Mr Hughes said.
We believe if council are allowed to get away with this, they will keep doing it. We are standing up for not only ourselves, but other small businesses and the live music scene that we love.
At the time of terminating ATET’s licence, Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the venue had “generated an unprecedented level of complaints and concerns from local residents” with the council “really doing everything we possibly can to support them as them have tried to comply with EPA noise regulations”.
But the lawsuit alleges the council and Development Victoria’s conduct has been “misleading or deceptive”.
Mr Hughes said the council had “consistently refused” to negotiate to save the business despite “repeated attempts” from the business to resolve the dispute.
Development Victoria is named in the lawsuit as it was the responsible authority about its permanent location.
ATET was located at a temporary berth, operating as an open-air floating bar near the Bolte Bridge, while the owners awaited to be relocated to North Wharf, which would be further away from apartments, but this was to be carried out once structural works were completed by Development Victoria.
“We are shocked at how unprofessional some of their behaviour has been,” Mr Hughes said.
“The council has failed to act in good faith, and we are being expected to bear the cost of that. That is wrong.”
In February, the venue was engulfed in flames after being the target of a suspected arson attack, three months into its operation.
ATET said it continued to await further information from Victoria Police, which is still investigating the fire.
“The business was just getting back on its feet from that incident when the council suddenly shut them down,” the business said in a statement.
Docklands News has contacted the City of Melbourne and Development Victoria for comment.