27. 2002 – La Porte (the gate)

Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people. 

In 2002 Amir Bodenstein’s business partner, Evos Primost, made enquiries with the local Council, showing them his sketches of the dream plan for 39 Glebe Point Road.

Council’s reply was a study paper showing that 39 and 41 Glebe Point Road had been constructed in the 1890s and stating that, while the property was significant to the character of the streetscape, it had no heritage listing.

In 2002 Bodenstein engaged civil engineer Johnston once again, this time to give general advice about structural issues with 39 Glebe Point Road. Johnston advised:

  • First floor, removal of walls: steel portal frame is to give lateral support to the east side wall – need for support to roof frame to be checked.
  • East side wall: location of bend does not appear to be correct on drawing (bend is further back) – will need to reduce width of door opening.
  • Internal cross wall, ground floor: existing openings may be widened into one opening main exist length of wall to remain intact, and substation brick head to remain over opening.
  • Other small window and door opening: OK.

Bodenstein went ahead with the renovations of the premises. Over a period of at least eight months he also conducted regular negotiations with Voukelatos, the owner, who by then was living in Greece.

Bodenstein indicated he had concerns about parts of the draft lease contract. The lease contract was finalised and in September 2002 he received his copy of the registered lease.

He suspected the owner was hiding something. When he suggested that, the owner replied “I have nothing to hide” and “Don’t you trust me?”.

Some of the tradesmen who had been working on MPSA’s project for Jeremy Arnott later went on to work at 39 Glebe Point Road. Pasqualle, the builder who had worked on the Arnott project, also gave advice on the Glebe property.

At the same time preparation for Bodenstein’s proposed restaurant, which he had named La Porte (the Gate) Cafe Restaurant, proceeded while the building repairs were underway.

Professional photographs were taken of the property’s interior and exterior. Enquiries were made with food and equipment suppliers. A cafe establishment project manager and a food manager were employed.

In May 2002 a Moroccan dinner was served for friends and tradesmen who had worked on the project.

1. Enquiries with Council
2. Consultant Phillip Johnston
3. I have nothing to hide
4. The tradesmen
5. La Porte (the gate)

1. Enquiries with Council

In mid-February 2002, Evos made enquiries with the Leichhardt Council Planner, Bruce Lay. Evos sent him the drawings of the premises as is plus the sketches of the dream plan and we received

In return a study paper showing that 39 Glebe Point Road was constructed in the early 1880’s and that the heritage listing is nil.

27.02.02 FC 1, p. 228

“39, 41 Glebe Point Road

Construction Date: early 1880s streetscape
Significance: Essential to the character of Glebe Point Road
Heritage Listing: nil”

2. Consultant Phillip Johnston

I got in touch with Mr Johnston through his contact details contained in his report of 25 June 2001. After two telephone conversations with Mr Johnson I decided to hire his services because of his previous experience with the building and his low fees.

On his first visit we asked for his advice about general structural issues concerning current and future options. During his first inspection Evos and I gave him the dream sketches and we asked him questions about the structural feasibility of the changes that are being reflected in those sketches.

Mr Johnston told us that the location of the bend in the sidewall is not correct in his report of June 2001 and that we should reduce the width of the proposed door opening in the sidewall. For the first floor he said that we would have to build an internal portal steel frame to give support to the sidewall.

For the renovations we asked him about the structural possibilities of the internal wall on the ground floor and I raised my concerns about the crack in the back wall.

Mr Johnston told me that he had supervised the rebuilding of the front wall and he said words to the effect of: “Ten years ago the front wall was rebuilt because of a wooden beam that was twisted” and that “after the completion of the work the front wall was checked for wind loading and it was found to be OK”.

05.05.02 Mr Johnston to AB – CC 1, p. 111

“39 Glebe Point Road – visit on 27/2/02.

Confirming verbal advice:-

First floor, removal of walls – steel portal frame is to give lateral support to the east side wall. Need for support to roof frame to be checked.

East side wall – Location of bend does not appear to be correct on drawing (bend is further back) – will need to reduce width of door opening.         

Internal cross wall, ground floor. Existing openings may be widened into one opening    main exist length of wall to remain intact, and substation brick head to remain over opening.

Other small window and door opening OK”.

3. I have nothing to hide

On 16 January 2001, around ten days after Mr Voukelatos left for Greece I received a Landlord Disclosure Statement and a Draft Lease in which the premises is stipulated as being a shop in a Retail Shopping Centre.

During the day I worked on the renovations of 39 Glebe Point Road and my negotiations with Mr Voukelatos were through international phone calls several times a week as the call rates were cheaper from Australia.

We had long discussions and following most of them Mr Voukelatos also sent written faxes. I believe that we had more than 100 hours of international phones calls. It took four months to finalize the Lease Contract and another four months until I received the registered lease, on 13 September 2002.

During that time I sent Mr Voukelatos two letters specifying my concern about the draft Lease Contract and at one stage I used a lawyer to help me to finalize the lease.

During our discussions I had some feeling that Mr Voukelatos was hiding something and two or three times I asked him words to the effect of: “Zois, is there is something that I should know about?” and ‘‘Are you hiding something?”.

Mr Voukelatos replied in words to the effect of: “I have nothing to hide” and “Don’t you trust me?”. Despite our differing opinions in relation to the lease contract, and the subsequent delays, we maintained good relations as the negotiations were held with mutual respect. 

4. The tradesmen

In January 2002 Morden Paint was in the final stages of a project at Jeremy Arnott’s residence, a project that later won the Master Painter Association’s Project of the Year Award.

Some of the tradesmen from the Arnott’s project went on to work at 39 Glebe Point Road and we also received some advice from the builder/partner of the Arnott’s project who visited 39 Glebe Point Road three times.

Project Manager – Amir Bodenstein (MPSA) .
Forman – Evos Primost (MPSA)
Painter – Sassa Cavajda (MPSA)
Handyman – J. & K. Handyman.
Plumber – Carsten Corsen.
Carpenter – Andy Lane.
Electrician – Jake Jones.

5. La Porte (the gate)

The preparation for the La Porte (the Gate) Cafe Restaurant Project took place in parallel to the execution of the premise’s renovations.

Market research

Two professional photographers Jack and Janina, who were in Sydney for a few months on a back packers holiday from the US, worked for me part time. In January 2002 they took photographs of Morden Paint’s projects and studio as well as 39 Glebe Point Road interior and exterior.

Janina also began the process of setting up the Cafe by making inquiries with food and equipment suppliers and when she left Mr Gilad Lesham continued this process.

Project manager

In March 2002 I began to build a working relationship with Gilad Lesham who was later to become the Cafe establishment project manager.

Gilad finished studying as professional sound technician in Sydney and he also possessed experience in the food trade. In July 2002 Gilad and his girlfriend Matti moved into the upstairs residence of 39 Glebe Point Road.

From there he was supposed to manage the establishment of the Cafe until the arrival of my family. In mid-August 2002, Gilad and his girlfriend moved out from 39 Glebe Point Road to Morden Paint studio. All together, the upstairs residence was in use for less than five weeks.

Food manager

Edo Lev, a close friend of Gilad, was studying to be a chef at a prestigious college in Sydney and it turned out that his sister was living next door to my family in Tel Aviv. He fitted the requirements of the job of running the Café Restaurant kitchen and he accepted the proposed job.

In May 2002 Mr Lev served a Moroccan dinner at Morden Paint Studio in Glebe for friends and tradesmen who worked for Morden Paint in the project.