By DAVID BANCROFT
A CHANCE encounter on the sixth floor of government offices in Sydney could cost a Lower River couple more than $50,000 and cruel their dream of establishing a liquor outlet at Palmers Island.
Graham and Kris Downing, the owners of the Palmers Pit Stop general store, have already spent close to $10,000 in getting council and Roads and Traffic Authority approval to submit a development application for a takeaway bottle shop.
That, in itself, had been a long and painstaking process.
But it was when the application hit the Licensing Court of New South Wales, Sydney Registry, Level 6, 323 Castlereagh Street, that things went awry.
The application had been lodged for 21 days and there had been no objections.
But according to Mrs Downing, when the court was asked if there were any objections, a legal representative of Woolworths, who happened to be in court, stood up and said he intended to lodge an objection.
"Had he not been there it probably would have gone straight through," she said.
Objections subsequently lodged by Woolworths include that 'the interests of Woolworths are likely to be adversely affected by the granting of this application' and 'the needs of the public in the neighbourhood of the proposed premises to which the application relates can be met by facilities for the supply of liquor existing in and outside the neighbourhood of the proposed premises'.
Mrs Downing said the objection created a substantial financial risk to their proposal.
Before it can be considered, the Downings will have to build extensions worth an estimated $30,000, a cool room worth $14,000 and a seven-car carpark worth $10,000.
That is before any legal costs and without any guarantee of success.
"It is a very big gamble," Mrs Downing said.
"If we back out now (that the application has been lodged) we will never get a liquor licence.
"We have already spent about $10,000 and have got nothing from it."
She said she believed the Woolworths objection was a case of a retail giant trying to prevent any competition.
She said that because of Woolworths' buying power, she would not be able to compete on price.
"We would just be a top-up service, and they object to that."
Their Maclean solicitor, Mark Spagnolo, said he did not be- lieve Woolworths' liquor outlet in Yamba, BWS, would lose turnover because of a successful application.
Woolworths declined to provide comment about the applica- tion.