Bottleshop battle exhausting

PHIL Rennie stands on the corner of Victoria and Pulteney Streets in Taree. Traffic roars past in the rain and he looks with weary eyes at the passing parade of people.

He is the owner of the former Vic Hotel and says he is tired. For almost two years, he has been working to "re-invent a pub that was a problem to the community" and on Wednesday night, he finally won a hard-fought battle with Greater Taree City Council to re-open the former drive-through bottleshop as a Liquorland drive-through bottleshop at 4 Pulteney Street, Taree.

The victory has come at a huge financial and emotional cost to Phil and his wife, Sue. He says they are both drained, relieved, but so frustrated by the experiences of seeking council approval for the development application.

He says it has cost them "hundreds of thousands of dollars" and "been an utterly exhausting experience."

"Common sense had to prevail," Mr Rennie said.

"We have worked so hard to reinvent a pub that was a problem to the community, with two new businesses. This is the next step and we are so relieved that we can just move forward."

Mr Rennie said he was "angry and frustrated" with the actions of mayor, Cr Paul Hogan who twice used his casting vote to refuse the development application late last year, adding that before the meeting on Wednesday, Cr Hogan called him to advise that he would not be allowed to address councillors. "He reckoned we had covered all the issues," Mr Rennie said. Those issues included concerns about parking and disabled access, inadequate traffic arrangements and comparisons between his development application and a previous one submitted to council by Woolworths for a Dan Murphy's outlet on Victoria Street, Taree.

Mr Rennie slammed the comparisons between the two applications, saying the drive-though bottleshop "was not a destination business like Dan Murphy's but designed to provide a convenience to the community."

He also refuted claims about insufficient parking, saying that there were a further five car spaces available in the basement of the adjoining property that could be used by bottleshop patrons.

He spoke highly of the professionalism of Cr Brad Christensen, saying that "he was the only councillor to reply to his email after the last meeting at which the development application was rejected." Cr Christensen had previously voted against the development application, but Mr Rennie understands that he "changed his vote based on the fact that the trading hours would be reduced."

The next step is to finalise the sale of the liquor licence to Coles. He says he is hopeful that within about two weeks the refurbishment process will begin with the goal of having doors open for trading in about two or three months.

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