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No free lunch for King William Street café

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A café proposed for a laneway off King William Street will be denied several years of free outdoor dining permits after city councillors warned the unprecedented arrangement would give it an unfair advantage over other city businesses.

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Private investment firm Anvil Capital owns the office building at 1 King William Street in the CBD, where it plans a ground floor café opening onto Gresham Place  – a laneway off the city’s ceremonial boulevard.

Last year, Anvil and the Adelaide City Council each agreed to contribute $250,000 to upgrade and “activate” Gresham Place, which is to be closed to traffic, paved with Adelaide black granite and fitted with high-quality street-lighting.

A report from council staff argued that Anvil’s investment into the public realm was enough to justify an unprecedented, five-year guarantee of free outdoor dining for the café (subject to annual review) which would see ratepayers forego about $20,000 in fees.

The council last night agreed to guarantee a five-year outdoor dining permit for the café, but declined give it away for free.

Area councillor Natasha Malani told last night’s council meeting Anvil should be rewarded with free permits for investing in city’s public realm.

She said she wanted to encourage more partnerships with private businesses to upgrade parts of the CBD.

“This is a space that they are investing in – a space that’s pretty grotty and average (currently),” she said.

But councillors Anne Moran, Sandy Wilkinson and Phil Martin told the chamber the arrangement would give Anvil an unfair commercial advantage over other city businesses.

“We’re providing a competitive advantage … that doesn’t apply to any other business in the city,” Martin said.

“I think it sets a terrible precedent – it’s a handout.

“The business is perfectly able to succeed on its own.”

While Malani argued that the council’s partnership with Anvil was reason to provide outdoor dining for free, Moran countered that the partnership was all the more reason to decline Anvil special treatment.

“I see no reason to reward this person with no fees,” Moran told the meeting.

Anvil Capital’s formal proposal for the street, originally presented to the council in 2014, says: “Given the upgrade of Adelaide Oval and recent changes to Bank and Peel Streets, we believe Gresham Place can better serve the city by being redeveloped into an open plaza area to be utilised by local building occupants, residents, nearby hotel guests, city tourists and potentially Adelaide Oval visitors.”

An artist's impression of the proposed redevelopment of Gresham Place. Image: ACC.

An artist’s impression of the proposed redevelopment of Gresham Place. Image: ACC.

“Our vision is for the plaza area to feature a mixture of table seating to enable people to enjoy meals in the space.

“A dedicated number of tables would be licensed to the 1 King William Street Café/Diner, while the rest of the tables would be freely available for public use.”

A representative for Anvil Capital was unavailable for comment this morning.

The council approved a year-long moratorium on outdoor dining fees in June this year.

That means that Anvil would not pay fees for any outdoor dining it hosts in Gresham Place before the middle of next year, when the council will consider whether to end or extend the moratorium.

However, the café will only benefit from the final months of the moratorium – upgrades to the laneway aren’t expected to be complete before April 2017.

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