If there is a future for popular Cooroy coffee outlet Bus Stop Espresso, it won’t be at its current site.
The Mary River Rd business, about 2km outside Cooroy, was described as a victim of its own success at Noosa Council’s General Committee meeting on Monday, in having outgrown the limits of its permissible operations as its popularity has grown to unprecedented heights.
The coffee-roasting business, Cooroy Coffee, located at the same address, will also need to apply for a code-assessable home-based business permit if it seeks to remain there.
Following a “reluctant” 5:1 vote by councillors. the business will be allowed to operate as a roadside stall – but only locally grown, raw foods such as honey, eggs, bread, fruit and vegetables will be on sale.
But coffee and prepared drinks and snacks will be off the menu within three months.
Sole dissenter to the vote, Cr Tom Wegener, who is a strong proponent of council’s strategy to develop sustainable food hubs through the hinterland, asked how staff arrived at its conclusion in the report that there was “no need” for the business when its popularity was evidently massive.
“Popularity doesn’t mean there’s a need for it,” was the staff response, which states that such a business should be located in Cooroy’s CBD, not outside the town’s urban footprint.
Councillors voted in favour of a motion forwarded by deputy mayor Frank Wilkie that will see the coffee/prepared drinks component stopped, but that the council would assist Bus Stop in finding a “more suitable” site for the bus to supply coffee.
“The impacts [on neighbours] are real,” Cr Wilkie said.
Bus Stop owners Rob and Beth Noy currently run the business on their own property, and have done since mid-2021. Whether they will be able to viably operate elsewhere yet maintain a roadside stall at their property is a matter of conjecture.
The business turned out to be a sanctuary for many older residents of the area during Covid, proving a safe environment. Since then, Bus Stop has become very popular with a range of people, particularly those seeking a larger, semi-rural setting for group meetings who would otherwise have trouble parking in Cooroy’s CBD.
Successive continuations have kept their business going during the processing of various council applications, but after more than two years, time has seemingly run out.
Primary concerns held by councillors were reflected in the staff report and recommendation to refuse the food and drinks permit, including safety for children in crossing Mary River Road in a 80km/h-designated stretch of road.
Cr Wilkie read out a letter from a neighbour, Joyce Brumley, who expressed concern about the rapid growth in popularity of the business, the growth of which was impeding on neighbours’ rights to enjoy the rural amenity of where they had bought property and lived, and that her children’s safety was being compromised by cars parking on the road reserve.
Cr Brian Stockwell expressed concerns that approving conditions to bring the application up to standard would potentially set a precedent, and the cost of the conditions would likely render the business inviable at the location.
Mayor Clare Stewart acknowledged there were “absolute merits” to the business, particularly when it opened during Covid, providing a safe place for residents – “even life-saving” – but the social impacts on neighbours and road safety could not be ignored.
Cr Amelia Lorentson said the safety of children was paramount, and the scale of “this incredible and wonderful” business’s success had turned into a local attraction, but it could also set a difficult precedent.
“We’ve learned with STA’s (short-term accommodation) what happens [when the Noosa Plan is not followed],” Cr Lorentson said.
“We need to work with the applicant to find a more suitable location.”
Cr Joe Jurisevic said all Councillors had enjoyed a coffee at Bus Stop Espresso at some stage and “acknowledge the appeal” of the business.
“But reluctantly we have to [support] the staff recommendation. Food and drink [selling] is not appropriate for that location,” he said.
The ‘mobile’ bus will need to be assessed on competitive tender merits if it is to operate in public spaces.
The recommendation was ratified at Thursday’s Ordinary Meeting of council, with the addition that the Council CEO be authorised to assist the business to search for a new, more suitable location…with possible sites including the Noosa Botanic Gardens and the Hinterland Adventure Playground.
Vote in favour of refusal: Crs Stewart, Jurisevic, Wilkie, Lorentson, Stockwell, Finzel.
Against: Cr Wegener.