Plan to erect exclusive ‘Euro chic’ club on Bondi beach gets lukewarm reception

By Elias Visontay

Authorities have poured cold water on an audacious plan to fence off a chunk of Bondi beach over summer for an exclusive “Euro beach chic” club aimed at surgeons, bankers and models.

The Amalfi Beach Club is proposing to erect a private area on southern end of the iconic beach, where 100 guests, each paying $80 for two hours of entry, would be served food and drinks.

But Waverley council, in response to media coverage of the plan, has clarified that it received and rejected the Amalfi Beach Club’s first proposal, which was lodged in May.

While it is now considering a subsequent proposal, the initial concept was previously deemed “unsuitable” by council officers for a number of reasons, including concerns about mixing drinking with swimming during the peak beach season, as well as the alcohol-free status of the site.

“Our beaches and parks are public open spaces, for the enjoyment of everyone,” a Waverley council spokeswoman told Guardian Australia on Wednesday.

According to the proposal, the Amalfi Beach Club would target “high net worth” individuals between 25 and 45, with “high disposable income”.

Its organisers expect typical male patrons to be “aspirational professionals such as doctors, surgeons, members of the finance industry”, while it expects women who visit the club to “occupy a similar high-end platform in areas of publishing, advertising, fashion, beauty and modelling”.

The proposal also promises “elegant fencing will be erected” around the 24 metre by 14 metre perimeter of the club, to be set up opposite Roscoe Street.

In its proposal, organisers plan for entry to the “day club” to require an $80 prebooked ticket. The cost of food and drinks – to be prepared by local Bondi businesses – would not be included in the cover charge.

There would be four two-hour sessions between 12pm and 9pm, with the club running from Thursday to Sunday.

The proposal says chefs from Bondi’s Icebergs restaurant have agreed to cater for the club, with a different local restaurant able to take over the club’s kitchen each month throughout the period the pop-up is running.

Speaking to Guardian Australia, Janek Gazecki, the Bondi-based organiser of Urban Polo events who is behind the proposal, said while it was inspired by Mykonos, Capri and St Tropez, Amalfi Beach Club was mostly an attempt to “boost local morale” and help businesses recover from the impact of Covid-19.

“From our end the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “It’s excellent for the local economy – local restaurants get more business.

“It’s a no-brainer, and we can’t see any rational reason why this can’t proceed. It’s not like regular beachgoers will need to pay to access the beach, this is just an opportunity for there to be a slightly more cosmopolitan way to enjoy the beach.”

Gazecki said the club’s 100 guests would take up no more than 2% of the beach space, and that “socially distanced cabanas and bay beds” would obey Covid-safe requirements.

Last week Waverley council outlined its policy to combat overcrowding at the beach over summer, with access barred for new visitors once the rough capacity of about 6,000 is reached – a limit almost reached on Monday.

“This will be the only stretch of beach where we can guarantee social distancing, and the council won’t rely on people laying their towel as they see fit,” Gazecki said.

Asked whether he thought Australians would be opposed to the idea of commercialising the beach, Gazecki noted surf events with corporate sponsors and the television show Bondi Rescue.

He also said a similar club that runs on Adelaide’s Glenelg Beach had set a precedent.

The Waverley council spokeswoman said: “There is also some doubt as to whether the proposal is an event or in fact an extended occupation of an area of beach for a business activity that would require a development application.”

She said the initial proposal, for the club to run between November and February, had been knocked back because “council’s policies do not support events on the sand in peak periods between December and January”.

The proposal now before council would be for the club to run from February to May.

“This proposal is currently being assessed by council officers.”