Piper Lane Cafe laneway dispute between local businesses Geraldton Club, Nino Fam to go to Supreme Court

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Lisa FavazzoGeraldton Guardian
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Geraldton's most contested laneway.
Camera IconGeraldton's most contested laneway. Credit: The Geraldton Guardian

Two landlords playing tug of war over a CBD laneway will meet in the Supreme Court next month, with one party using crowdfunding to cover legal costs.

Several Geraldton businesses are involved in a dispute over the laneway, which sits between buildings owned by The Geraldton Club Inc and Nino Fam Pty Ltd. The case will be heard for three days, starting on June 28.

In 2015, the Geraldton Club tenant Piper Lane Cafe began using the laneway as a dining area, upsetting the owners of the neighbouring building.

Bec Goodwin-Parry created a Gofundme page on May 7 to raise money for the Geraldton Club and Piper Lane’s legal costs, setting a target of $50,000.

By late last week, $6540 had been raised by 38 donors.

“Our aim is to raise enough funds to cover legal fees to fight for the future of the laneway and secure it to foot traffic only,” she posted.

“If we are lucky enough to raise more than our legal fees, we will donate any remaining funds equally to prostate cancer and breast cancer research.”

The Geraldton Club bought the land in 1915.

It was before Foreshore Drive existed, and an easement was created to ensure the neighbour had access to the back of the property.

This granted rights to the neighbouring building’s “tenants, servants, agents, workmen and visitors to go, pass and repass at all times.”

In 2016 the club obtained legal advice that the easement still existed. “It is my opinion that the Geraldton Club cannot lease the lane to its tenant for the purpose of an outdoor dining area,” barrister Alan Hershowitz wrote.

The Geraldton Club’s president Trevor Lake previously said the cafe had planning approval from the City of Greater Geraldton to operate the outdoor dining area.

However, a 2016 letter from the City said the cafe might need approvals from other government agencies under separate legislation. “It is your responsibility to obtain any additional approvals required before the development/land use can lawfully commence,” read the letter.

The plaintiff, Nino Fam, could not be reached for comment.

A person affected by the spat, who asked to remain anonymous, said she was disappointed the situation had devolved into “nastiness”. “Nobody is trying to close the cafe, it’s a matter of rules and regulation,” she said.

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