ATET’s “compliance ignored” as council shuts venue down amid “unprecedented level” of noise complaints
Docklands’ controversial floating events space ATET has officially closed its doors after the City of Melbourne terminated its licence despite the operator contending he had followed “every rule”.
ATET founder Jake Hughes said the venue was notified of one noise breach and other inconclusive alleged exceedances on May 26, which occurred in March and April, but that he wasn’t provided with a copy of the report conducted by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) detailing the breaches until June 9.
He said that despite not being able to rectify the issues at the time without the report, which he claimed that EPA “had sat on for 10 weeks”, it had immediately responded by adjusting its installed noise limiter to ensure the venue was compliant.
“The minute we found out there was a noise breach, we stopped and fixed the issue immediately, but council still wants to kill us off,” Mr Hughes said.
They don’t care about their own rules, and they just stopped talking to us.
The council made the shock decision to cancel ATET’S permit on June 23 after facing a relentless wave of noise complaints from residents, and the operator’s failure to comply with environmental regulations set by the EPA.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the council had worked closely with the operators over several months to “identify solutions” but to no avail.
“Unfortunately, as we haven’t seen any adjustments from the operators to either their business model or to the structure that they’re using to be able to address those continued issues with compliance, with the noise regulations, and this has led to the cancellation of the licence,” Cr Capp told reporters this week.
She said the cancellation of ATET’s licence was “regrettable” and “sad” but maintained “it is important that we respond to the health issues and impacts on local residents and that’s why we’ve taken this action”.
Cr Capp said ATET 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”.
The move to shut the venue comes less than a month after councillors voted to issue a notice of default on the venue’s planning permit after an EPA report deemed its noise levels were consistently excessive.
In response, Mr Hughes said they had immediately made necessary adjustments.
“We have done everything the council has ever asked us to do and even offered to go further. They don’t care about their own rules, and they just stopped talking to us,” he said.
Following the news of its licence cancellation, ATET has launched an online petition in a bid to save the venue, which has garnered 6000 signatures in less than 24 hours.
Mr Hughes is understood to have poured a reported $2 million into the business, in what he also hoped to “bring life back to the city”.
“Our family has put everything we have into this business and the council can’t be allowed to suddenly kill that off with the stroke of a pen,” he said.
“What message does it send to business owners in Melbourne if you follow every rule and get shut down anyway?”
“Right now, the council is closing a business that is compliant with their licence. How is this lawful? What’s the point of having licensing requirements if the council is willing to ignore compliance?”
Cr Capp said the council understood how “significant this decision is”, which is why they “worked so closely with the operators throughout this period to identify solutions”.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t seen an adjustment that gives an indication of ongoing compliance with those noise regulations,” she said.
Cr Capp conceded she was initially excited when the business launched late last year, but added “that unprecedented high levels of complaints, the demonstration of impacts on residents, their amenity and health have come through over those months and we do need to respond”.
Asked whether ATET could move to another location, Cr Capp said “all of those options have been considered”.
“The operator suggested a number of solutions such as closing their venue and changing their business model but at this point, we haven’t seen any of those things eventuate, and it has led to the cancellation of the licence.”