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Locomotive workshops – pub fit-out or community fitted up?

Pub, bar and venue giant the Australian Venue Company, as part of the Mirvac retail and commercial redevelopment of the site, has made a development application to the City of Sydney Council to operate a pub in Bays 1 and 2 North of the Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops.

The application has been opposed on heritage grounds as “a bridge too far” by the Rail, Tram and Bus Unions Retired Members Association as Bays 1 and 2 North were to be the primary location for the workshops’ machinery and equipment collection and for interpretation of the workshops’ social and industrial history.

Significant compromises concerning heritage interpretation eroded the original vision for the retail activation of Bays 1 and 2 North, which was based on heritage interpretation being the primary driver and small retail being a complimentary offering allowing full public access to heritage interpretation areas.

The proposed fit-out upends the hybrid model and commercialises hitherto publicly accessible space with one tenancy, a pub. Thus, the considerable heritage displays within Bays 1 and 2 North are removed from public accessibility, especially for minors.

Since the private owners took over in 2015, commercial imperatives have compromised heritage interpretation. The loading dock and the separation of the various components of the world-famous Davey Press are the most notable examples. The public are being denied access to Bays 5-15 by commercial tenancies and now Bays 1 and 2 North will be accessible only by those who want to patronise a pub.

The Association argues that heritage tourism, both international and domestic, school excursions, special events and open days all must be covered by full public access rights.

The Association argues the proposed three-storey kitchen pod challenges and distracts from the heritage columns as the primary vertical element within the Bays and that the mega bar (seating for 220 and an overall capacity of 750 patrons) will become the dominant feature of the Bays, not the moveable heritage collection.

Heritage, they argue, has become a side dish for the few rather than “benefit[ing] the broader community” as claimed in the DA.


Roger Jowett is a member of the RTBU Retired Members Association.

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