In Our Pub by Clyde Mooney

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Battlers Peter and Jayne Fitzpatrick have become entangled in Council red tape around their community pub, in Rappville, near Casino.

Just 16 months after purchasing the heritage-listed Rappville pub, the Fitzpatricks are on the verge of closing under weight of regulations and penalties imposed by the local Richmond Valley Council (RVC). They are asking for help, beginning a GoFundMe campaign to try to raise the $60,000 they believe they will need to meet the Notice requirements, and avoid penalties.

But Council disputes a number of the pub’s assertions, and stresses it wants to work to help the place stay open.

“We’re a pro-business council,” insisted the RVC spokesperson* to PubTIC. “We try to do as much as we can to get businesses up and running. We’re staying in for the long-haul.”

Rotting timbers from the balcony

Rotting timbers from the balcony

The problems seem to have begun when the Fitzpatricks attempted to repair a rotting front balcony, which had been inappropriately constructed by a previous owner over Council-managed Crown land.

This work prompted RVC inspectors, who discovered the ‘air-space’ discrepancy and another illegal extension on the rear of the building.

These matters triggered further investigation, which embroiled the pub’s foodservice facilities and upper level accommodation – both of which did not meet modern requirements. The kitchen reportedly did not comply with health & safety, and Council say the owners had “significantly intensified operations in the accommodation, increasing load on the waste water system” – which would not handle peak requirements in the low-lying and flood-prone area.

Council claim the kitchen had previously “only served snack-type meals” such as pies and sausage rolls, and that upstairs was only used as lodgings for the operators.

Rappville pub_Kiss Cafe menuThe Fitzpatricks told PubTIC they bought the place knowing the kitchen needed some serious work, some of which has already been done, but that they had not inherently changed the pub’s operations – both the kitchen and letting of rooms upstairs had been taking place for years. (Refer: the pub’s long-standing Kiss Café menu)

Fearful of the consequences, they intend to close the pub this Sunday (24 July) if the money is not raised for the works.

“We didn’t think we could comply, and weren’t going to stay open and cop the fines,” Jayne Fitzpatrick reported to PubTIC.

But further investigation has ascertained the Council stipulations – due to apply from 9 August – will only be pursued if the pub continues its accommodation and dining offerings.

The spokesperson stressed to PubTIC that the pub could continue to operate the bar without complying to the ground floor (Class 6) fire regulations, if the accommodation ceased.

Furthermore, a Council meeting last night resulted in its decision to relinquish control of the disputed land under the veranda, allowing the Fitzpatricks to now apply to purchase it from the Crown. Also, the DA recently submitted for exterior and kitchen work now gives them access to heritage grant funding that Council report will also “apply retrospectively” to work already done.

Council assures that it will strive to communicate with the Fitzpatricks to help the pub remain open for business, and overcome the hurdles of the compliance notices.

The 1911 all-timber pub was built by the town’s eponymous patriarch Henry Valentine Rapp. For over a century it has been a community hub, and space for local musicians. It is the congregation point for tourists to the area, conjugating with friendly locals over the likes of karaoke.

“It’s a great experience for an otherwise isolated community,” says Jayne.

The struggle to save the Rappville pub will continue, but as both sides appear to have the same goal it is hoped a happy outcome can be achieved.


*RVC media policy does not allow the quoting of staff members.

Jayne and Peter Fitzpatrick