The vice-president of Byron’s tourism organisation VIA Byron has urged the owners of a ‘topless’ bar to ‘come out from behind the shadows of a Gold Coast post office box’.
Ben Kirkwood told Echonetdaily, ‘I’d like to know what exactly is going on. If the operator feels like what they’re doing is the right business there’s nothing to be ashamed of and if the rumours are exaggerated I’d encourage them to engage with the community, the business association and the liquor accord’.
Mr Kirkwood, who owns the awarded Beach Cafe in Byron Bay, said he had heard rumours ‘for a couple of weeks and different people had told me about the topless bar at the old La Playa site’.
But he said he thought they were ‘too far fetched to be true given the current climate’.
‘Then I heard Simon Richardson on the ABC and realised it was happening.
‘We approached the Liquor Accord and Byron United (chamber of commerce) – and they seemed to be in the dark. Council also weren’t aware,’ he said.
He added that VIA Byron decided it was time ‘to stand up take some leadership and say this is not the right business in the current climate with violence on the street and protecting values of the community that this is not an appropriate business to be coming into Byron’.
Mr Kirkwood was also concerned about ‘the fact that this has all been so hushed up: the fact the licence goes back to a PO box on the Gold Coast without an identity as to who’s behind it. It all raises more questions than it answers,’ he said.
Earlier this week Echonetdaily was contacted by a caller anonymously, who claimed to have an association with the owners and who said ‘the whole town has got it wrong; the venue is not a topless bar, it’s a going to be burlesque-themed bar-restaurant’.
When this was put to Mr Kirkwood, he said ‘burlesque in itself I’ve got no problem with’.
‘My concern is more about the sexualisation of women in a traditional topless bar and what that might do: a male-dominated environment, overpriced drinks and then putting them onto the street sexually charged up. That’s not what we want it to be and not what we want Byron to be seen as.’
He added that ironically the venue could be benefiting from the publicity around its imminent opening.
‘It could be argued it they’re getting good publicity, such as the recent full-page picture on the front of the Northern Star,’ he said.
The caller told Echonetdaily that the venue had yet to open, because of ‘paperwork issues’.
Yesterday local media reported that the Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing had not received an application for a licence at the site.