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James Squire locked out of premises

28 Sep 2010

James Squire locked out of premises Image

By Shane Scanlan

Docklands lost a cornerstone business last month when James Squire Brewhouse was locked out by its landlord over a rent dispute.

Neither the brewhouse’s owner Graeme Thompson nor ING Real Estate were prepared to publicly discuss the matter due to legal constraints, but the closure is a blow to the Waterfront City precinct.

Squires was an anchor tenant and its management had become much admired and respected within the wider Docklands community.

Managers Grant Rigby and Jane Kinsey had been there from the start – December 22, 2005.

Their almost daily battle to hit revenue targets through the seasonal peaks and troughs which characterise hospitality in Docklands came to an abrupt end early on Thursday, September 16 when their cleaners alerted them that they could no longer access the building.

A noticed posted by their landlord stated that demands for money made in June had not been met.  Failing payment, it gave the business 14 days to clear out the premises, with particular mention of the upstairs micro-brewery.

“We’re a little surprised,” Mr Rigby said.  

“I always thought we’d work through this together.”

For the 20 affected staff, the closure was even more surprising.  Landlord representatives escorted the staff into the premises to collect their personal effects later in the day on the 16th.

For 24-year-old Cuong Ngo, Squires was the only job he’d knew – having started there as a raw 19-year-old and subsequently completed formal training and worked his way into a management position.

“I only really stayed that long because I like the place so much,” he said.

City on a Hill (formerly Docklands Church) minister Guy Mason shot to international prominence in October 2007 when he started holding Sunday church services at Squires.  The church had outgrown the venue for its Sunday morning service, but was still holding its weekly evening service there at the time of closure.

City on a Hill is currently holding a combined service at its Hoyts Cinema location in the CBD.

Docklands Rotary has also been forced to find a new home and has moved its weekly meetings to Waterfront Venues on the other side of the Waterfront City Piazza.

Another “original” Docklands business, Vic Harbour Kitchen and Bar, suffered a similar fate nearly a month earlier when it was locked out of its NewQuay Promenade premises by MAB Corporation.

NewQuay precinct manager Simon Duffield said negotiations were going well and he was confident that Vic Harbour would soon be re-opening.

But not everyone is upset by the latest news.  The largest Docklands restaurant player Lou Jovanovski says it creates an opportunity for some “fresh blood”.

“Perhaps we will get someone down there that will be more active in the precinct and bring new ideas and a breath of fresh air,” he said.

Mr Jovanovski was critical of both James Squire and Vic Harbour for failing to be part of combined marketing initiatives.

“To be very honest I really don’t think it (the closures) will make any difference to us at all,” he said.

Waterfront Venues owner Paul Misan agrees.

“My view generally for the precinct is that from time to time I would expect there will be tenancy and tenant changes as there have been in the past and will be in the future. I do not see this as inherently negative as these changes bring with them new energy and a new ‘buzz’ to the area,” Mr Misan said.

“Whilst I always watch events with interest, and given the new and ongoing developments in Docklands, I feel the direction of the precinct is to growth and further establishing its place in the Melbourne dining landscape for corporates, tourists and residents generally.”

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  • Kate at 3:58pm on 29/09/10

    From a consumers perspective... they were bloody hopeless, so hopefully they're replaced by a restaurant with good service. I tried to order a meal there once and they said they were too busy to take any more orders. Others I was there with had already ordered. Unbelievable.
  • Chris at 5:42pm on 30/09/10

    Most sad.

    JSBH Docklands, you will be remembered. :'(
  • frances monsbourgh at 9:57pm on 30/09/10

    sunday night at squires upsatirs at the Docklands church was a welcoming place of peace,great if you're contemplating another tough week with not much joy in it. Listening to the words of Jesus of nazareth and some contemporary exposition is always nourishing and thirst-quenchng. Good bands and singers !
    Well done Docklands church, sorry to see you go. May you flourish in your new venue!
  • adrian at 12:19am on 01/10/10

    thats unfortunate kate,

    i had been a regular there for the last couple of years without much of an issue, staff and security where always friendly to us aswell.

    never have know many people to have any problems with them either :(

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