‘Let’s Close a Street’: Melbourne’s Renaissance Goes Out

“It might be a bit of a déjà vu saying ‘we are looking forward to a COVID safe summer’ because we said that last year too. But I think we have the roadmap now, we know now that there is potential for that end in sight.”

In the CBD, Melbourne City Council is considering closing Crossley Street, Market Lane and Heffernan Lane from the end of October on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.

Bars, restaurants and shops could trade outside late into the night as part of the council’s “inside out” initiative, which Mayor Sally Capp said would create “blossoming outdoor markets.”

Jane Matthews plans to sell basics and accessories at a pop-up stall on the footpath outside her clothing store in Little Collins Street, Swensk, from the end of October before she can reopen indoors.

Matt McConnell of Bar Lourinhã, Jane Matthews of retailer Swensk and Mayor Sally Capp at a CBD park on a wet Melbourne day.Credit:Chris Hopkins

She doesn’t expect to generate much income outside, but said, “When hospitality does well, that energy of positivity and people in the city flows through to us.”

Matt McConnell is writing a new menu and wine list to seat customers in the dining space that has taken up a parking lot in front of Bar Lourinhã, where he is the chef and co-owner, while he waits for more details from the government .

Despite a wet week, Mr. McConnell hopes to keep the “parklet” permanently after the first program launched last year. Some customers didn’t mind the rain anyway.

“We have customers who say ‘we’ll just stay here’ [when it starts to rain]’ said Mr McConnell.

Cr Capp is also hopeful that rapid antigen testing, coupled with high vaccination rates and QR codes, could enable crowds to safely return to city events.

“Rapid antigen testing could be an important pillar in Melbourne’s renaissance,” said Cr Capp. “What’s an extra 15 minutes in line, in the grand scheme of things?”

The City of Melbourne will consider hiring buskers, waive licensing fees and purchase an additional $1.1 million worth of parklet dining infrastructure.

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Parklets will also be revived on some of Melbourne’s best-known inner-city shopping streets, such as Brunswick Street in Fitzroy.

Chrissie Maus, general manager of the Chapel Street district, said she was planning “a summer like no other” by attracting an unprecedented number of people to the high street with new events and alfresco dining.

A spokeswoman for the Victorian government said details will be released shortly about extending support to municipalities and businesses to get more activities out.

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