Dollar Bill Brewing’s dream of a cellar door on Ballarat’s outskirts won’t be turning into reality after the local council rejected the brewing and blending company’s planning application last night.
Founders Fiona and Ed Nolle were seeking approval to be able to welcome wild beer and cider fans to their small home, with the intention being to host a maximum of 30 people per day across one weekend a month.
Fiona described last night’s decision as a "kick to the guts" but says they've already discussed new options for their future, which will likely include finding a new home for Dollar Bill.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow, but at least we have an answer, because it’s been almost two years that it’s been moving forward,” Fiona told The Crafty Pint.
The planning application faced 30 objections with concerns ranging from the impact on local traffic, to noise relating to alcohol consumption, the impact on local property values and the amenity of the quiet area.
Dollar Bill secured 19 submissions in support for their plans, including from the Independent Brewers Association, and raised a petition with close to 380 signatories. However, the councillors unanimously rejected the planning application.
“All these people stood up with us,” Fiona says. “And said, ‘These guys are great and what they are trying to do is good and it is appropriate.’.”
The couple went into last night’s meeting hoping for approval but said within five minutes of the start they felt it wasn't going to go their way. Fiona had also hoped for more support from the City of Ballarat, given it has previously sold itself as a craft beer city.
“The fact they want to make themselves the regional craft beer capital of Victoria, you would think they would want to support us," she says.
Their proposal was a relatively humble one, a far cry from a typical brewery cellar door or taproom: they would cap the number of visitors to the farm each day, with limited hours of operation during which they would guide drinkers through their unique and trophy-winning wild ales. Despite this, Fiona feels there was an assumption they were intending to open a brewpub.
“I really want people to meet us, be part of our family and feel at home, and by opening a brewpub I’m not going to do that.”
While going to VCAT could be an option, it’s not a route they want to pursue given the lacklustre support they’ve received to date. The couple are already weighing up a range of options, including selling their home, moving to another shire, and installing their own stainless steel brewery there.
“Being the planner [Ed] is, he’s already found a property up in Daylesford,” Fiona says. “We might even do something in Melbourne where we can have a taproom there … there’s a lot to figure out now.
“This is a backward step but it has also opened the gate for us to run free in a way.”
And we're sure there will be plenty of other councils and communities only too eager to welcome such a unique and attractive business.