By Melissa Meehan
IT’S a little chapel, but spirits are high.
Even more so after celebrating another win at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) last week that will see tight restrictions on the Little Road Chapel in Iona lifted.
After years of discussions with the Cardinia Shire Council over the function of the site, owners Matthew and Alison Eno said the decision had given their business a much-needed lifeline.
“It’s pretty exciting news,” Mr Eno said.
“We were very restricted in our operating hours, limited to 30 days per year and operating hours of 10.30am until 6pm.
“Now our hours have been extended to 11.30pm.”
He said he and his wife had made two applications to extend their business hours to the council in the past two years, but both were knocked back.
“There were a couple of objectors who said we would disturb the cows,” Ms Eno said.
“But we are not a venue that has people all the time.”
With no option but to take the matter to VCAT, Mr and Mrs Eno said the extended hours would allow newlyweds to celebrate into the night.
“Previously all celebrations had to be finished by 6pm, which has been costing the business bookings, since many bridal couples wished to celebrate through to the evening,” Ms Eno said.
“Now we even have the opportunity to have more than one wedding on one day, which could ultimately double our profit.”
Mr Eno said while only 80 people were allowed on the site at any one time, the new restrictions could see the chapel hold a morning wedding and then one into the night.
“We’ve done well considering the strict rules we had to abide by previously,” he said.
“But this could give us so much more opportunity.”
VCAT senior member Jeanette Rickards said increasing operating hours at the 101-year-old refurbished Presbyterian Church, ceremonial gardens and 80-seat reception venue was not going to result in any detrimental impacts on the surrounding area.
“It is not considered that vehicles leaving the site and travelling along made roads will have any impact whatsoever on stock in the area,” Ms Rickards said.
She also disagreed with objectors that headlights and additional traffic late at night would affect stock.
The new restrictions are effective immediately, subject to a liquor licence being approved for the extended hours.
Mr Eno and his wife have already called brides and grooms with bookings in the next few months to give them the option of extending their celebrations.
“People are really excited,” he said.
“And so are we.”
By Melissa Meehan