Suspicion has turned to scandal following the illegal demolition of the beloved and historic Corkman Irish Pub in Carlton.
The pub was purchased for $4.76 million in October 2014 by an unnamed local developer, and when the lease expired shortly after the business closed.
Around 6am on 8 October this year a fire was spotted in the building. Emergency services arrived, but the 1857 Victorian pub was significantly damaged. Victoria Police confirmed the arson squad was investigating.
But last Saturday night, Melbourne City Council began receiving calls complaining of demolition noise at the site. Inspectors arrived to find it largely demolished. Although they issued an order to cease work, the crew returned the next day and completed the demolition.
No demolition or planning permit had been issued for the property, and a construction hoarding has been illegally erected on the footpath surrounding the site.
“This is a very, very serious matter – that building was protected by a heritage overlay,” said Lord Mayor Robert Doyle.
The Planning Minister has referred the matter to the Victorian Building Authority for investigation, and says Government will investigate the severity of penalties meant to deter such unauthorised demolition of heritage buildings.
There are already suggestions of forcing its reconstruction, with a group of Melbourne University students quickly starting a petition to “Resurrect the Corkman pub!” Other possibilities could be the forced rebuilding of the façade, and bans on future permits by those involved.
The Age reports the investigations centre on Stefce Kutlesovski and Raman Shaqiri, owners of the company 160 Leicester Pty Ltd that bought it last year. Furthermore, a de-registered company called Shaq Demolition and Excavation, at least partly owned by Shaqiri, was photographed on Saturday demolishing the pub.