11 December 2018

Green Herring closure end of an era at historic Ginninderra Village

| Ian Bushnell
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The rustic slab hut premises of the Green Herring at Ginninderra Village. Photo: Supplied.

The operators of the Green Herring Restaurant are hoping to relocate the business somewhere else in the Gungahlin area but admit the future is uncertain in another venue away from the historic Ginninderra Village and its slab hut premises.

Pam Patten and Max Terribile took over the restaurant a decade ago from the original owners who had been there for 20 years, and bestowed its name from a combination of their surnames.

The end of 30 continuous years trading at the site was “pretty devastating” and sad for the community but Ms Patten said the lease was up at the end of the year and the landlord could only offer a month to month situation while he re-evaluated the entire Village site, part of the Gold Creek tourism precinct.

“Unfortunately for us, we can’t operate like that. We have lots of people who want to book in advance for weddings and functions. Not having that certainty means we can’t take those types of functions, so that obviously impacts us significantly,” she said. “Without a long-term proposition, we didn’t feel it was workable for us.”

The restaurant’s last trading day will be 22 December to give them a week to pack up and vacate the premises.

A significant part of the business’s value derives from the historic, atmospheric setting so while the operators are exploring other locations in the area they don’t know whether the move will be successful.

“Taking the name and our product may not work in another venue but we’re willing to give it a go,” Ms Patten said.

Ms Patten said customers had been amazingly supportive. “They’re obviously incredibly sad that this is happening. They’ve been sending lots of beautiful messages, and we’re grateful for all the love and support that’s been coming through,” she said.

The landlord, Stan Waldren, told The Canberra Times that it was unfortunate the restaurant operators had decided not to proceed with lease negotiations but acknowledged there had been commercial factors at play.

Mr Waldren said the state of the Village complex had to be assessed, with insurance issues and structural and compliance concerns present.

He said while there were major redevelopments underway nearby, he had no firm or imminent plans for the site.

But the buildings brought on to the site in more recent times including the hut housing the Green Herring needed to be assessed so the site could be made more viable in the context of what’s happening in the area.

The restaurant’s slab hut premises – which was built in 1860 and transported to the site from Bookham, near Yass, in 1970 – is not heritage listed but the Village complex, including the old 1880s schoolhouse, is.

The listing says new buildings and alterations may be permitted as long as the heritage values of the place are not affected. Demolition of original buildings and structures are not permitted, other than in exceptional circumstances, such as if they are structurally unsound and beyond economic repair or where there are significant public health and safety reasons, and no feasible alternative.

Ms Patten said the situation was one of those fine balancing acts between preserving history and progress. “He has plans for his property as he’s allowed to do, and we wish him all the best for the future. It’s been a great ten years,” he said.

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I loved the Green Herring. Canberra is very short on historic and atmospheric buildings like the Green Herring but big on boring and bland restaurants. I hope someone can save it. The food was really good, too.

Mr Waldren, I sincerely hope you retain the heritage feel of the area. Canberra already has an abundance of bland, souless buildings and precincts.

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