Tarana's only cafe The Universal Eatery to move

GOODBYE: Tarana is preparing to lose its cafe the Universal Eatery. Chef Melissa Clear, pictured with her dog Ruby, who she says is a town mascot, will reopen the cafe in Oberon. Picture: PHOEBE MOLONEY
GOODBYE: Tarana is preparing to lose its cafe the Universal Eatery. Chef Melissa Clear, pictured with her dog Ruby, who she says is a town mascot, will reopen the cafe in Oberon. Picture: PHOEBE MOLONEY

THE only cafe in Tarana is closing and will move to Oberon after it was told by Lithgow Council it was “greatly exceeding” its seating limits and the septic system needed to be upgraded. 

Lithgow Council’s head of economic development Andrew Muir said criticism on social media blaming the council for the cafe's closure was “just not accurate”.

“We’ve indicated that we are happy to assist them with the DA process, but they’ve chosen to move elsewhere and that’s totally up to them,” he said.

Melissa Clear, the owner and chef of the Universal Eatery, said she had been given no choice but to go. 

“I can’t see how the problem can be solved in the short term,” she said. 

“I am not disputing there is work to be done, but that’s out of my hands. I can‘t do it.”

Ms Clear, who is a tenant at the cafe’s premises, contacted her real estate agent in October about a breakage in the plumbing system. The plumber went through Lithgow Council to perform the changes.

“I’m a tenant here and we had a problem with the absorption trench,” she said. 

“Next thing I know council is on my doorstep reducing the cafe to 20 seats and saying I have to empty the septic every week. 

“So I said to council I’m probably going to have to shut down because I can’t run a cafe on 20 seats.”

Ms Clear said her previous seating arrangements catered for 68 seated guests, and paperwork she received at the beginning of her lease three years ago did not mention a limit of customers in the cafe’s DA.

“To be honest, council is talking about putting in a new septic system but that would only increase seating numbers to 30 or 40 people and I can’t really run the business on that amount,” she said.

“It’s a shame, because we employ local people, we support the local community and it’s become quite a tourist destination here.

“I get phone calls from people in Sydney to reserve a vanilla slice.”

Lithgow Council gave Ms Clear an extension on the period in which she could run the cafe at 60 seats. However, that period ended on January 8. 

“They were given a period of time for the changes,” Mr Muir said. 

“But they are important because the capacity had been so significantly increased at the cafe that that was likely a contributor to the failure of the effluent disposal system and that’s an issue of public health.”

Tarana residents have compiled a petition of 500 signatures asking for leniency.

“When this place opened it was one of the best things to have happened here and now it’s all gone,” customer Christine McShane said.

The Universal Eatery will be reopening in Oberon in late March on Albion Street.