Case Studies - starting a business in Merri-bek

Ever wondered how other businesses have navigated the permits and approvals process with Council? Read on to find out about what they've learned.

Case study one: Andrew's Gym

Woman working out in gym

Andrew was looking at opening a gym in the Glenroy area. Andrew was aware that the site he was looking at had been a retail business previously.

Meeting with Merri-bek City Council

Before signing a lease, Andrew attended a permit check-in meeting with Council to discuss what he needed in regards to permits to open the business. It was during this meeting that he was advised that he would need a change of use Building permit, amongst others.

The meeting helped Andrew understand the process of opening a business, including;

  • the potential time frames
  • the costs involved
  • the importance of planning in advance for any changes
  • the possibility of delays
  • the permits needed for the building he had leased.

Negotiating the lease

Based on the information provided at the meeting, Andrew;

  • also assessed other sites that would suit his needs
  • negotiated a lease at his site of choice, provided his planning application was successful
  • Negotiated an initial rent-free period to allow him to process the permit application and open his doors.

Dealing with delays

Andrew encountered a delay in his change of use Building application due to disability access requirements. This was something Andrew had been prepared for based on advice provided in the permit check in meeting. This delay had minimal impact to Andrew’s opening schedule as he was prepared and aware there may be potential delays.

Staying informed

Andrew was able to obtain regular updates from the planning team as the permits were being processed and approved. This helped him to coordinate his plans with the permit timelines and gave him the ability to plan and mitigate any potential risks from his end. Once the permits were granted, Andrew was able to open his new gym a week before his anticipated timeframe and start trading.


Case study two: Jenny’s Cafe

Interior of cafe

Jennifer and her business partner were looking at opening a café in the local area, and had already found a great site on the street that they loved.

Signing a lease

Jennifer set about signing a lease so she could secure the site for their café. The building had previously been a small manufacturing warehouse and had some interesting features that they wanted to keep and incorporate into the café.

Contacting Council for permits

Jennifer made some initial enquiries to Council to understand what she needed to do in relation to operating her kitchen and preparing food for customers. The advice Jennifer received was that she would;

  • need to apply for a Health permit to cover her food preparation and handling
  • need a Planning permit to use the site as a food and drinks premises
  • need signage on the building and car park reduction (because there was no on-site parking)
  • also need a Building permit for a change of class application (she had the choice to engage a private registered building surveyor or seek a permit from Council's Building Services team).

Jenny chose to apply through Council's Building Services team. In relation to timeframes she was advised of an approximate 3 month period in relation to the planning process.

Dealing with delays

During the advertising period for her planning permit there were objections from neighbouring residents that pushed the approval of the permit back a further 6 months.

Jennifer was delayed significantly in the process of opening her business and incurred unprecedented costs due to not being aware of the permits, regulations and processes required to open a café. This resulted in almost a years’ delay before the fit out could begin. During this delay Jennifer and her business partner were paying $10,000 a month in rent for the building. This experience almost made the business unviable and had a significant impact on her health due to stress.


General Tips

  • Head to the Merri-bek City Council website to obtain freely available and easy to access information regarding what is required to open a business in Merri-bek
  • Call, email or visit in person to discuss your plans for opening your new business
  • Fill out the online questionnaire that identifies all the permits and approvals required for your business
  • Before signing a lease or making firm commitments we strongly advise you to seek advice from Council as well as independent professional guidance.


Need more help?

More information available at the Opening a New Business page.

If you require further assistance please email Business Merri-bek or call our Business Support Hotline on 8311 4131.