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Byron Shire
October 3, 2022

La Playa locked out but still operating

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La Playa restaurant/lounge bar (now called Soho) operator John Cooper says he is taking legal action against his landlord. Photo Jeff Dawson
La Playa restaurant/lounge bar (now called Soho) operator John Cooper says he is taking legal action against his landlord. Photo Jeff Dawson

The operator of Byron Bay’s La Playa restaurant/lounge bar (now called Soho) is refusing to leave the premises after he was given an eviction notice for unpaid rent.

In a bizarre twist of events, the bar’s owner John Cooper was in the building when locksmiths arrived to change the locks, and now he won’t leave.

He told The Echo that he has no intention of closing the door to lock himself out. ‘My rent is now paid up and was only 16 days late,’ he says. ‘Due to the fact that I have invested $350,000 [in renovations] and have ongoing business and bookings there, I have remained in the building to continue to trade.’

The venue at 9 Fletcher St made news late last year when it was sold to strip-club operators who opened there briefly but were denied a liquor licence.

Plans were subsequently scuttled by the Office of Gaming and Liquor (OGLR) after the mayor and community expressed outrage.

Meanwhile, a court case between Cooper and landlord Bill Bailey will be heard in a week, according to Mr Cooper. Mr Cooper has complaints about common area improvements, the lease change-over and delays to renovations required so he could re-open and trade.

Court case looming

He claims when he took over the lease three years ago, the building, ‘had been gutted and was in a severe state of disrepair’.

‘[After renovations] We began to wonder why we were been treated this way, especially after we had spent well in excess of $250,000 on renovating to a high standard. Mr Bailey was so pleased with the [renovation] work, that on several occasions he asked to parade members of his family and others through our premises commenting on what a fantastic job we had done.’

Lap-dancing saga

Mr Cooper also claims he only discovered much later after negotiations that the new tenants were planning to open a lap-dancing bar.

‘Even though this was not illegal, the town went crazy.’

He says it brought OLGR up from Sydney, who refused to transfer the liquor licence to the prospective couple, ‘as the town didn’t want it’.

‘OLGR insisted that we reopen as La Playa, and in return – providing I did a few alterations, ie extra soundproofing, and installed a noise-limiter installation – we would be given a 3am music licence.’

Mr Bailey was asked for comment but was unavailable as he is currently overseas.

It is understood he wanted to evict Mr Cooper after three months of unpaid rent had accumulated, something which Mr Cooper denies. ‘I have improved the building and increased its internal floor area by 30 square metres, and the premises are now worth double the rent,’ said Mr Cooper.

Eviction notice ‘for $3,265’

He added that he invested such a large amount because he had signed a five by five by five (15) year lease. ‘I was served an eviction notice for the amount of $3,265.

‘It’s outrageous this landlord, who has watched his tenant put vast sums of money into his property, can get rid of them for such a small amount.’


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5 COMMENTS

  1. WHY WOULD A TOWN LIKE BYRON WANT TO SUPPORT SOMETHING LIKE A 3AM OPENING TO STRIP JOINT OR NAKED WAITRESSES THERE IS ENOUGH TACKNESS IN BYRON AS IT IS WITH CERTAIN BUSINESSES OPERATING EG CHEEKY MONKEES AND ITS CHEAP DEALS AND DANCING ON THE TABLES . THIS TOWN DOESNT NEED THIS NOR DOES IT DESERVE TO BROUGHT DOWN TO THIS LEVEL IT IS SAD AND AGAIN ABOUT THE MONEY I HOPE IT DOESN`T GET TO REOPEN AND I HOPE THE TOWN IS SAVED FROM THIS TACKINESS.

  2. We do not operate a strip club. We operate a jazz and blues venue with comedy nights and other live music etc.
    Maybe you should come and see for yourself

  3. Hi Deborah I think you may have misunderstood the article. La Playa now operating as SOHO Lounge is not associated in any way, shape or form with the mentioned ‘titty bar’ that opened briefly last year.

    I have been taken on for marketing & promotions to push the new venue and provide quality entertainment to the residents of Byron Shire. We will have a weekly Jazz & Blues night ‘The Blue Kat’ & Comedy Club ‘The Ha Ha Club’ starting from the end of February which is inline with the recent night we had featuring Lisa Hunt on the 4th January. These will be the first of a series of new nights to launch at SOHO Lounge. I totally agree with you that Byron does not need the kind of ‘tacky’ entertainment that you have mentioned and I can assure you that this will not be on offer at SOHO Lounge.

  4. DEBORAH, perhaps if you could manage to put together a coherent sentence while not SHOUTING your ignorance wouldn’t be so striking.

    I don’t personally support a strip club but that is not what the issue is about. As far as the venue goes, while not my cup of tea, it seems it would be quite a lot of fun and a good night out for those inclined. I am sure there is more to the story than presented here (isn’t there always?) but if this truly is the case then I wish Mr Cooper good luck with the legal proceedings.

  5. I am pleased to announce that The tribunal ordered that the premises be given back to me and all keys.

    Hoorah, it means I can go and sleep in my own bed after two weeks of hell. Who would of thought, that been locked in a bar with a sea view would be so stressful. Thanks to all those who gave us support.

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