NEWCASTLE council has approved King Street Hotel's expansion despite strong opposition from police, health officials and residents.
At a meeting of its development applications committee on Tuesday night, the elected council voted (10-2) to approve the venue's plan to expand into a neighbouring building on Steel Street. The nightclub's overall capacity will rise to 1300 persons from 780.
The expansion had been strongly opposed by Newcastle City Police, which argued it would "significantly impact on crime" and have a "further detrimental effect" on the inner-city area. It described the proposed venue capacity as "exorbitant".
Councillors had heard from both the venue owner and a local residents group at a public voice committee meeting in February, and Hunter New England Population Health also recently opposed the expansion.
Cr John Church, who along with fellow independent Cr Kath Elliott voted against the plans, said on Tuesday that residents feared occurrences of anti-social behaviour and violence in the area would "double" in line with the increased venue capacity.
"The NSW Police have asked council to refuse this DA, Hunter New England Health has asked council to refuse this DA, the ... residents group has asked council to refuse this DA," he said.
Cr Allan Robinson (IND) had moved the motion to approve the plans as recommended by staff, suggesting concerned residents should not have moved into an area where a nightclub had been operating for decades.
He compared their concerns about noise to those of his own living alongside a working harbour, which he did not complain about.
"People move in beside a nightclub, and then try to stop the nightclub," he said.
"It's a bit like me, I don't like the tugboats tooting their horn some nights either."
Cr Declan Clausen (ALP) moved an amendment proposing "mitigation measures" the applicant had included in a plan of management to address resident and police concerns about patrons leaving the premises be mandatory for a year.
They include an additional street guard, a courtesy bus and a dedicated vehicle pick-up area.
He said if it was a success, the measures would be maintained "in perpetuity".
Data from the trial would be shared with a community consultative committee, which is to be established as part of the development consent and comprise local residents, police, McDonalds and other stakeholders.
Cr Church questioned what "data" would actually be measured and asked if council officers would be deployed at night to record statistics, to which staff said they traditionally relied on venues for such information.
Cr Elliott said she was "pleased to see" an existing DA permitting events in a laneway for up to 300 patrons would be relinquished as part of the expansion, but she could not support it.
She added McDonalds needed to improve its approach to managing customer behaviour during late-night hours.
Cr Clausen's amendment was ultimately included as part of the original motion.
The nightclub reopened in March after being closed for a year due to COVID-19.