Federal Hotel receives outpouring of support after complaint of upgrade works

SUPPORT: Federal Hotel owners Mark and Kylie Phillips say they have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community, following a complaint made to council about their restoration works.
SUPPORT: Federal Hotel owners Mark and Kylie Phillips say they have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community, following a complaint made to council about their restoration works.

More than 1500 people have signed a petition in support of Federal Hotel publicans Mark and Kylie Phillips after the premises was controversially upgraded.

"It is more than a livelihood. It's a passion and it is a life choice we could have made somewhere else," Mr Phillips said.

The couple set off from Broome, Western Australia, five years ago, travelling around Australia looking for an old pub to buy, when they came across the "Fed" in Port Pirie.

Drawn to its unique history and visualising the potential to revive the hotel into a booming tourist attraction, the couple could not turn down the opportunity.

Since taking ownership, they have invested more than $600,000 in restoring and enhancing the pub's original heritage in what they say is a "labour of love".

Taking the opportunity to upgrade the facade during the COVID-19 business shutdown, the couple got to work and have since re-opened with a refreshed ambience connecting visitors to the history of the pub.

But a letter of complaint made to the Port Pirie Regional Council suggested the paintwork, re-plastering and filling in of the old bookmaker's front door has changed the local heritage value of the hotel.

Council has asked the couple to submit a retrospective Category 3 Planning and Development Application for the work.

"We identified there was a safety issue with the footpath out the front and two old men falling over on it one day was enough for us to email the council a copy of the video footage of them falling over," Mr Phillips said.

"To the council's credit they addressed that issue. In addressing that issue and levelling out the footpath we committed to them that we would also fix up the facade of the hotel, by repairing the broken plaster work that had been damaged by the salt damp or water ingress from old air conditioners, and the repainting of that plaster work.

"After the council had finished their footpath, there was a redundant door down at the bookmaker's room. The door wasn't original. It had been the subject of a car crash back in 2002 or 2003."

Having faced hardships with the business closure due to coronavirus restrictions, the death of Mr Phillips' mother a week before and Mrs Phillips battling breast cancer, the couple is in disbelief with what they are now being put through.

"It was our intention to return the front of the hotel to its original state," Mr Phillips said.

"We have tried to keep as much of the heritage value as we possibly could. It is part of what we represent here.

"Three other major buildings of similar nature to ours in this town have had a repaint in the past two years.

"They all have a similar listing in terms of their heritage listing or a greater state heritage listing and yet not one development application was received. We are in support of what they have done because it is great to see old pubs being restored.

"We didn't know that we had to put in a development application. It was only when the council received a letter of complaint that this has come to light."

Since the petition launched online, the couple has received an outpouring of support. Resident Elizabeth Gould has been outspoken.

"Nothing has been done for years and years to that pub and these people brought it and they have come in and put all their life savings into that hotel," she said.

"These people are working hard to get this pub up and done ...and people just want to whinge.

"I am just so angry at the fact that they have put them through all this hell.

"They should be able to continue the work they are doing.

"They have put so much money into the community."

Independent Frome MP Geoff Brock offered his support and said he was "helping" the publicans as much as he could.

"I have had people come to me regularly, concerned about what is happening there," he said.

"It is now up to council to hear the concerns and the public support next Wednesday night at their planning and development application.

"I certainly will be sitting in the gallery to listen to the council assessment panel and to give my support."

Council was contacted by the Recorder, but declined to comment.

The newspaper was unable to contact the party that objected to the project.

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