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Brewery faces uncertain future

Zoning regulations have hamstrung the local brewery.

Co-owner of the Tumut River Brewing Company Tim Martin welcomed news the brewery has become a finalist in both the 2019 NSW Tourism Awards and the 2019 NSW Business Chamber Awards, but noted it’s come at a critical time as the business may potentially be forced to move out of town amid a battle with local government zoning regulations.

 Zoning restrictions have meant the brewery has been unable to provide take away food and non-alcoholic beverages on site. More significantly, the closure of a popular shared space for bands has meant acts have had to utilise the restaurant area to perform which has resulted in a downturn in patronage.

With profits having dropped by 50 per cent in the last year, Mr Martin said that it looked like the business may have little choice but to look beyond Tumut for a place to trade.

Although he was thrilled to hear the brewery had been announced as a finalist in both the state tourism and state business chamber awards, Mr Martin said the news has come at a bittersweet time.

“Ultimately it’s something we will be taking in our stride,” Mr Martin said. “We’ve been having an open dialogue with council to try and find a place where the business can operate but it’s looking like we can’t afford to do that in Tumut,” Mr Martin said. “There just doesn’t appear to be anywhere zoned for a business like ours that would be both suitable and compliant.”

Mr Martin described it as ridiculously heart-breaking, especially in light of the brewery’s recent spate of success in collecting awards.

“Obviously, we’d love to stay and continue trading but they’ve told us pretty clearly they wouldn’t approve full trading permissions,” Mr Martin said.

“For that reason, the full scope of business has basically been hamstrung over the last six years. We’ve been hoping to ride it through and we have hoped that eventually it would work itself out but now it seems there is no other solution.

“It’s a terrible thing because you name your business Tumut River Brewing Company to promote tourism to the town. Unfortunately, we can’t keep losing money because we can’t trade properly and if we can’t sort this out by the end of summer, we won’t have a business next year.”

He said the council had been working closely with them to find another appropriate venue in Tumut but so far it had had no luck.

“We’ve done a lot in the last 12 months to compensate but at the end of the day while we have managed to make things work, we’ve been forced to become a regional brand by selling more to distributors in order to do it,” Mr Martin said.

“That’s not what our original plan was and it’s not really the direction we want to go in.”

Celebrating its 30th year in 2019, the NSW Tourism Awards recognises a diverse range of businesses from across New South Wales. Finalists across 26 categories have displayed excellence in a range of tourism areas such as Tourist Attractions, Festivals and Events, Ecotourism, New Tourism Business, Destination Marketing, Accommodation and Excellence in Accessible Tourism.

Also gaining a hot spot on the finalist list from the Snowy Mountains area was Eucumbene Trout Farm at Rocky Plain.

Businesses entering the awards benchmark their business against their peers across the state and gain recognition for their accomplishments and innovation. NSW Business Chamber Regional Manager Andrew Cottrill said that the awards were the most prestigious in the NSW Tourism industry.

“We have nine tourism operators selected as finalists from the Riverina Murray region, which is wonderful acknowledgement of this growing sector of our regional economy. I wish all finalists the very best, and feel confident our region will be very well represented by these regional leaders,” he said.

“The NSW Tourism Awards have a long history of celebrating and recognising business excellence, innovation and outstanding customer service by tourism operators.”

Managed by the Tourism Industry Division of the NSW Business Chamber and supported by Destination NSW, the NSW Tourism Awards celebrate and acknowledge tourism businesses that demonstrate outstanding achievement throughout the year.

The brewery had gained the finalist position for Breweries, Wineries and Cellar Door Experience.

Mr Martin said he’s been getting used to travelling from Tumut for award ceremonies and that this month he would be spending a lot of time in Sydney.

“Both the tourism awards and the Chamber of Business Awards are going to be held in Sydney this month so I’ll be doing a bit of travelling,” he said.

“We got through to the regional finals (of the chamber awards) because of local awards here in Tumut so a big thanks to everyone for their generous support from both locals and the tourism trade. To see that recognition means that plenty of people are valuing what we are doing and that we are doing the right thing.”

The winners of the 2019 NSW Tourism Awards will be announced at a Gala Dinner on November 14 at the Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney. Gold Medal winners in categories 1 to 25 go on to represent NSW at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards, to be held in Canberra in March 2020.

Mr Martin said the future of the brewery would be determined by a consultation meeting to occur between he and council this week.