Larry the Lobster is staying in Kingston, on the site where he’s been for nearly 40 years.
The magnificent tourism icon was possibly going to be bought by interstate interests and be lost to Kingston, but prominent local land-holder Tom Brinkworth stepped in to buy the icon over the weekend.
The Leader spoke with Robe Ottoson Partners Real Estate managing director and agent Ben Treloar, who explained that it was a complete sale, with the Brinkworth family buying the lobster, along with the restaurant building behind it, and the land they’re on.
“We are currently within the sale process and settlement should be in about a month’s time,” Mr Treloar said. “The Brinkworth family fully intend to leave Larry right where he is, so the Kingston community can enjoy Larry from now until whenever so he’ll be staying where he is.”
Mr Treloar said Ottoson Partners Real Estate had been dealing with all interested parties and trying to find a home for him, and he and Linda Tait as selling agents were happy to finalise the sale and keep Larry in Kingston.
Previous owners Casey and Jenna Sharpe have been unavailable for comment on the sale today.
Until the weekend, it seemed Kingston District Council was the last remaining hope of keeping Larry in Kingston, with the Sharpes strongly considering an offer from Western Australia.
Kingston District Council has a chance to save Larry the Lobster from leaving Kingston.
The iconic tourist attraction – an internationally recognised feature of the town since its construction in 1979 – has been on the market for more than 12 months after being given an extensive facelift, but has so far failed to sell.
Now, owners Casey and Jenna Sharpe have received an offer from a buyer in Western Australia to take the iconic lobster off their hands.
The development made international headlines, with the New York Times running an article on the lobster possibly leaving Kingston.
Last week, the Sharpes offered the council the chance to buy it instead so it can stay in Kingston, setting a deadline of Monday this week for a decision.
Council CEO Heather Schinckel explained that council had a very tight timeline after being offered the chance to buy the asset on Monday, August 27.
“That request came to us and they gave us a week to make a decision,” Ms Schinckel said. “We had five business days and a deadline of September 3.”
The council had a special meeting on Friday to discuss the matter. Councillors decided at the meeting that they would show an interest in buying the Big Lobster, but would request an extension on the deadline to properly investigate the matter.
“First of all, there is a whole pile of due diligence checks that council really does need to take before they proceed with the purchase,” Ms Schinckel said. “That’s about having accountability and informed decision-making on behalf of the community.”
Ms Schinckel added that council will be investigating the cost of the lease to leave Larry where he is, as it has the option to lease that part of the land. The council will also look at whether it would be better to purchase part of the land.
“We need to check for structural integrity of Larry, we need to think about the ongoing cost and we probably need to talk to the community, the people that our elected members represent,” she said. “We need time to achieve that...council thought that five business days was unreasonable.”
Another twist to the story is that the caretaker period for the council approaching November’s local government elections starts on September 18. Council is prohibited from making certain decisions during that time.
Restrictions on the council include not entering contracts higher than $10,000, avoiding spending unbudgeted money, and conducting unplanned public consultation.
Ms Schinckel said: “We’ve let the Sharpes know that we are interested in investigating the purchase, but have requested an extension of time to let the newly elected council to make a sound decision on the purchase of Larry on behalf of the community.”
The Big Lobster has constantly been in the news in recent years, including controversy over funds from a GoFundMe account created for a much-needed upgrade, followed by the Sharpes funding a large scale facelift themselves, the closure of the restaurant behind Larry and finally the listing of the much recognised structure for sale.
In 2016, national radio duo Hamish and Andy launched the #PinchAMate campaign to raise money and awareness about the need to upgrade Larry.