iBar ready for battle
THE “explicit adult” lap-dancing restaurant, iBar, at Tweed Heads faces a costly court battle as Tweed Shire Council prepares to throw the book at the business for alleged illegalities.
Tweed councillors at their meeting tomorrow are to consider staff recommendations aimed at forcing the iBar operators to dance to a different tune.
But the restaurant's operator Warren Armstrong, who admits to taking on the Queensland Government and councils incontroversies for “32 years”, yesterday warned Tweed Shire Council would get more than it has bargained for.
“They will put me in a position where I will take them to court,” he warned.
“They will sit there and say: 'We are opposed to it (the iBar)' but the court approved it.”
To make his point Mr Armstrong had a new sign erected outside the iBar in downtown Tweed Heads, describing the Council as “a bunch of politically-driven wankers”.
He said his restaurant complied with relevant rules and had “engaged all the consultants necessary”.
“We've got everything done. Every single box was ticked,” he said.
Mr Armstrong, a strip club entrepreneur who hit Brisbane head- lines in 2007 after opening a “topless” Bubbles 'n' Babes carwash in the central suburb of Albion, has a history of battling governments.
He gave evidence at Queensland's Fitzgerald inquiry into police corruption almost 20 years ago and was jailed for nine months after pleading guilty to keeping a premises for prostitution.
In their report to Tweed councillors, staff have recommended the rejection of plans which would allow the iBar on the shores of Jack Evans Boat Harbour to cater for up to 200 customers at once.
They have called for legal action over alleged unauthorised building work, use of the premises in a different manner to the original restaurant approval and supposed non-payment of more than $31,000 in Council fees.
Mr Armstrong disputes that.
He said the previous owner has a receipt specifying that the fees, calculated at just over $12,000 in 2007, were fully paid.
The Council officers say they warned Mr Armstrong in February all uses of the site, including lap dancing, would need Council approval and that he would also require a Place of Public Entertainment licence.
An application for the licence also lodged by Mr Armstrong indicates 200 people would be catered for - 70 inside the building and 130 outside.
Tweed Heads police have also told the Council they found about 200 people there during a recent inspection.
Council officers said customers of nearby shops had complained that “such an establishment” was allowed to operate while others had complained that it was “in full view of the adjoining family park” and scantily clad women had been soliciting in front of the premises.
Tweed councillor Warren Polglase said he believed councillors would strongly back the staff recommendations but feared taking the matter through the courts could drag on.
He appealed to the operators to follow the rules.
“A good outcome would be to have someone take a lease on the place and convert it into a coffee and cake shop,” he said.
Council records show approval was granted in June, 2005 for the installation of a commercial kitchen to run a “steakhouse restaur- ant” limited to 40 diners. An inspection early this year revealed allegedly unauthorised work, including an increase in the outside deck area, a toilet which did not comply with Australian stand- ards, altered interior layout and a new location for the bar.