Oscar's turns into Jarman's

October 07, 2016

Paul Jarman outside the building he and his partners are about to convert into a multi-function area in the heart of the Port of Echuca.

The building which housed the acclaimed Oscar W’s restaurant could be open by the end of summer.

When it will be unveiled as Jarman’s Wharfside Echuca.

Paul Jarman’s company was announced the preferred tenant for the controversial space earlier this year.

Mr Jarman, who is a current Campaspe Shire councillor and is seeking re-election, this week revealed his detailed plans to the Riverine Herald.

Mr Jarman will pay $140,000 in rent every year for the 21-year-lease to offer an upmarket restaurant, bar, cafe, events/function space and retail/providore store.

Once open it will create about 50 jobs. 

“We are at the conclusion of the planning stage,” he said.

“We will get the go ahead any day so that we would envision building and construction to start just after Christmas.

“I would love to think it would be open at the end of summer or middle of the year so the location can be reactivated and the local community can once again visit such a great place.

“I am under no illusion that the community expects a high quality outcome for such a site and that is absolutely our aim.”

“We’ve committed to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in upgrades and improvements to the buildings at no cost to the ratepayer,’’ he said.

“Improvements to the building over and above that are at the tenant’s expense. 

“We are expanding the function space and we are expanding the restaurant area to a cafe, restaurant and bar.

“We are completely re-glazing the riverside view so it will maximise the visitor experience to get that Murray River view of the paddlesteamers and the wharf," he said. 

“Another key feature is to use local produce where possible with the expectation we can encourage more gourmet produces and premium produces in the region.”

“The only obligation council has, as all landlords do, is to provide a building that is fit for purpose and up to standard.

“All up it will be about double the size of what the old venue used to have.”

As for the providore store, it will feature locally made produce and products including chutneys, jams and small goods.

Mr Jarman said because his family lived in the region, Echuca was always going to be the town he invested in.

“I’ve been excited for a long time considering the wait,” he said.

“I think everyone has been wanting to know when it will open. It all honesty probably me
more so because we as a company can’t wait to re-open the restaurant.

“At the end of the day, the community just wants it open.

“They are over what’s gone on, they just want to know when it is open and that’s the reasonable timeframe, allowing for the process, that I think we can achieve.

“There’s a lot of people that talk about the port and have their concerns, but we’ve (Star Hotel) had our best year ever … I think the port is at a great place at the moment.”

Paul Jarman says it’s like coming home - again

Paul Jarman is no stranger to the Oscar W’s building and/or restaurant.

He launched it initially as the Riverside Restaurant and was its head chef in the late 1980s.

Eventually he left but returned to the site in the late 1990s with Dean Oberin to develop the site into what would become the acclaimed Oscar W’s.

He owned half, was the executive chef and also the co-manager.

“We picked up plenty of awards for the food, wine and dining experience that we created all those years ago,’’ Mr Jarman said.

“Back then, interestingly enough, it was also closed for an extended period of time because of the complexities of the lease.

“It was quite a complex process. When we did the redevelopment it was virtually the same as this time.

“The council of the day fixed up the toilets and the building and all that sort of stuff.”

And the team behind the restaurant did the rest.

Eventually Mr Jarman, who has been involved with restaurants for 30 years and owns the Star Hotel, again left the business.

But again, not forever.

About two years ago, the lease was coming to an end so he decided to apply.

“The building came up for tender again and there was three applicants — my company, the tenant and one other,’’ Mr Jarman said.

“We all put an expression of interest in and at the conclusion of that process there was found to be an anomaly.

“So the three original applicants were asked to reapply and my company was successful in that round because of the substantial works to which we are committing – and that we will pay for ourselves.

“The only responsibility council has is to bring the actual building up to standard.”

Including the former Oscar W’s, Mr Jarman has worked in five different hatted restaurants and been executive chef in three of them.

How the saga unfolded

MAY 2014

It was announced Oscar W’s Wharfside would close its doors on July 31.

In a joint statement, landlord Campaspe Shire and the Oberins (Dean and wife Renee) said they had agreed on terms.

The statement read: “Council and the Oberins have been in discussion for some time about works that are required at the building, including the type and timing of these works.

“As a result it has been agreed that the current restaurant lease will end on July 31, 2014, instead of September 2015, providing greater certainty for both council and the Oberins to plan for the future.”

JUNE 2014

Campaspe Shire announced the Oscar W’s building and gift shop (among other Port of Echuca buildings) would be put out for tender.

The shire said it would be looking for an independent property agency (eventually Colliers) to manage the tender process.

JULY 2014

The Oberins reportedly ended their lease having reached a disagreement on works to be completed in the building.


The Oberins looked like moving straight back into the building it left.

Dean confirmed to the Riv he was the preferred candidate to move back into his old building.

Colliers had informed Campaspe Shire of its list of candidates to fill five vacant Port of Echuca precinct buildings.

JUNE 2015

An anomaly was found in the original expression of interest process.

Council — at the time — would not reveal what that anomaly was. The EOI process was repeated.


Campaspe Shire councillor Paul Jarman was announced the ‘preferred applicant’ to lease the former Oscar W’s building.

Council chose Cr Jarman to lease the building after a confidential meeting.

The Local Government Inspectorate was invited to investigate the process.


The Local Government Inspectorate found no evidence of wrongdoing in Campaspe Shire council’s decision to name Cr Jarman as the preferred candidate.

FEBRUARY 2, 2016

Campaspe Shire confirmed it would enter into a lease with Cr Jarman for the building. The five councillors present officially voted to enter into a lease with Cr Jarman.

For the record

Council eventually (after announcing Cr Jarman as the preferred tenant) revealed the anomaly in the original process.

Council said two applicants were given an opportunity to provide further information to the independent agent acting for council and one was not.

By not providing equal opportunity to all applicants, two applicants would have been seen to receive an advantage over the applicant not provided with the same opportunity.

Therefore the initial tender process had to be repeated, but this time it was done internally.

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