There were fears it would shade the reading room, which has a glass ceiling.


The government abandoned those plans, but a development application for the small bar proposal was lodged with the City of Sydney in November and is on display until January 12.

“The Mitchell Building is a State Significant heritage item. This proposal does not affect the heritage fabric of the building, nor interfere with the sandstone façade,” the development application says.

The small bar is “part of a strategy for the library to increase the engagement with the community, increase visitations to the library, stimulate the local economy and to maximise the potential of this unique, picturesque location”.

Plans include a $500,000 renovation to the roof of the Mitchell building. The rooftop section was added in the 1960s and initially used as a staff cafeteria and then a staff lunch area until 2017.

Since then, the rooftop has been unused, the development application says.

The proposal would put a small bar on top of Australia's oldest library.

The proposal would put a small bar on top of Australia’s oldest library. Credit:Peter Braig

However, Labor’s arts spokesman Walt Secord, who was a vocal opponent of the initial proposal, said the government had been “completely disingenuous” over its plans to commercialise the site.

“Sadly, there is nothing that the Berejiklian government will not sell or privatise in NSW. They flog off public assets and they are now popping a bar on the top of Australia’s oldest library,” he said.

“A year ago, they ruled out a restaurant on the rooftop, but we now know that they are still continuing with their plans to commercialise the rooftop of the historic Mitchell library.”

The Arts Minister Don Harwin has been contacted for comment.

In a statement released after the budget, State Librarian John Vallance said the government’s investment would see the library’s “Mitchell and Macquarie St buildings accessible to all”.

“The Mitchell Library’s beautiful reading room will be refurbished, a new gallery built, along with improved arrangements for circulation and wayfinding inside the library,” he said.

“Finally, a small function venue will be built on the roof of the Mitchell building, accessible from the Domain and designed carefully to involve no alteration to the building’s current profile.”

A State Library spokesman said: “The funds allocated for the small bar is $300,000 … for the fit-out of an existing space. It [the small bar] will be run by the State Library”.

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