‘It should be demolished’: MP threatens popular bar
A HUGE row has blown up over the controversial Pavilion redevelopment at Burleigh Heads, with the multi-millionaire Sydney leaseholder saying the historic pool in its lower level will not be reopening.
State MP Michael Hart is furious, warning he will push to have the entire building bulldozed when the lease is up because it sits on state land and locals want the much-loved pool, which has operated for more than 60 years, to continue operating.
But leaseholder and Sydney hotelier Ben May says it is not profitable to operate a lap pool and learn-to-swim school in the building following his $11 million revamp.
"The pool won't be going back in as is, it just doesn't make commercial sense," Mr May said.
Mr May said he was aware of the pool's status locally and said he was considering opening a fitness facility on the lower level of the building, where the pool now sits empty.
Mr May said he would focus on the lower level of the building - which had been home to the Rackley Swimming school - when the rooftop restaurant and bar were well established.
"There's no legal requirement (to have a pool or gym) but I am aware of the public affection for the pool or the perception it was all built around a pool and I have to respect that," Mr May said.
"I wouldn't have been able to do what I did in terms of reinforcing the structure and the building with them in there.
"(It's) just a whole reset for the whole building. I've concentrated on upstairs, getting that done and trading, and now I can start getting my head around that. I can't see exactly what it's going to be."
The Pavilion has applied to the Office of Liquor and Gaming and also to the council to class the site as a hotel rather than a restaurant.
The application has fuelled speculation on social media that there are plans to bring in poker machines, extend trading hours to 2am and include live music.
Burleigh MP Michael Hart, who opposes the Burleigh Pavilion having a hotel licence, said he would take a "firm stance" in supporting the public pool.
He threatened to demolish the site, which sits on state-owned land, if the pool was not reopened. But last night a Department of Natural Resources spokesman told the Bulletin there was a 30-year lease on the property.
Mr Hart said the area needed a calm bathing area for children to learn to swim.
A 50m ocean water swimming pool was first opened in the area in 1954 before it was replaced with the smaller pool in 1987. In the 1950s colourful local identity and lifesaver Jack Evans, who also ran the Jack Evans Porpoise Pool, was the lessee of the Burleigh dressing pavilion and was considered well placed to build and operate the pool.
Mr Hart said the pavilion sat on state land.
"I would oppose any further extensions to the lease and once that lease is up I would say that building should be demolished. I'm taking a pretty firm stance on this," he said.
"I'm working to keep Burleigh the way it is."
Rackley Swimming director Jay Clarke said the company had been unable to negotiate a new lease when its previous lease ended as the development of the building began.
"The swim school could not afford to pay exorbitant restaurant-style rates," Mr Clarke said.
"There is an immediate catchment and a history of people learning to swim there and I feel like Burleigh is now underserviced, and the stupid thing is it (the pool) is still there," he said.
"It's just sitting there in his basement."
The neighbouring Burleigh Heads-Mowbray Park Surf Life Saving Club has plans to expand its clubhouse, including building a two-lane 18m swimming pool on the roof.