The future of the Chisholm Tavern has been sealed – it will close its doors in May after the developer of the site chose not to renew the venue’s lease.
The developer also confirmed it will take legal action in the Supreme Court over the sale of a toilet block required for a proposed McDonald’s restaurant to be built on the site of the Tavern.
The many moving parts of this story took another turn this week when Chisholm Tavern owners Jennifer and Graham Hunt received a letter from the owners of the Chisholm Village Shopping Centre notifying them that their month-to-month lease would not be renewed.
The owner of the centre, Chisholm Village Pty Ltd, had made repeated efforts since July 2019 to have a development application approved by the ACT Government to build a McDonald’s restaurant on the site.
The first two DAs were knocked back before the decision was challenged in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) in February this year. ACAT gave approval for the McDonald’s proposal on the condition the ACT Government sell a toilet block adjacent to the Chisholm Tavern.
A petition to save the Tavern received tri-partisan support from three MLAs and Planning Minister Mick Gentleman announced the toilet block would not be sold meaning the Chisholm Tavern lived to serve another schooner and schnitzel.
However, the Tavern’s fate was sealed in a letter terminating their lease, which read, “We have made a decision with a high-quality tenant to occupy block 48 following relevant authority approvals”.
The owner’s representative told Region Media they have sought legal advice to challenge the ACT Government’s decision on the toilet block.
When asked if they still planned to put a McDonald’s restaurant on the site, the owner, who did not want to be named, confirmed those plans.
“Absolutely, yes,” he said. “We’ve got legal advice and have commenced that process.”
It is understood the matter will be heard in the ACT Supreme Court.
The shopping centre owner said he appreciated the community’s support for the Tavern, but their plans did not fit with what he called the “retail ecosystem and family-friendly objectives” of the shopping centre.
“We’ve always taken a long-term view of how we plan for the shopping centre by creating a commercially sustainable and family-friendly and convenient environment for our customers. We’re working to introduce new tenants who don’t exist in Chisholm,” he said.
Tavern owner Jennifer Hunt said they had been offered a second lease on the vacant Chinese restaurant next to the Tavern but the terms of the lease were unsuitable. They were also considering options to lease other premises but no decision has been made.
Ms Hunt said she and all of the Tavern’s loyal customers were deeply saddened with the impending closure as the venue represents the heart and soul of the Chisholm community.
“People come here because they want a beer and a good feed, and this decision is just a great pity after all these years,” Ms Hunt said.
“We’ve met some fantastic and very interesting people during our time here and made lasting friendships we hope will continue beyond the closure of the Tavern.
“We’ve seen marriage proposals, some impromptu, some planned. We’ve had marriages, engagements, wakes and all the milestone parties that you can imagine, including an 80th birthday which was the best party of all.”
The manager of Chisholm Village said the Minister for Planning and Land Management, Mick Gentleman, refused to meet to discuss the proposal and is yet to provide a reason for the decision. A spokesperson for Mr Gentleman said they had responded to correspondence from Chisholm Village Pty Ltd.
“To ensure probity, the Minister does not meet with proponents that have a live development application or are currently going through a legal process associated with a development application,” the spokesperson said.
After operating the venue since 1991, the Hunts will call last drinks on 3 May this year. A farewell party is already planned followed by an extended holiday.