05/12/2007 - 22:00

Melbourne gets bar laws right

05/12/2007 - 22:00


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If it wasn’t for a girlfriend in Melbourne I probably wouldn’t have come across one of the most outrageous bars I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a glass of wine in.

Melbourne gets bar laws right

If it wasn’t for a girlfriend in Melbourne I probably wouldn’t have come across one of the most outrageous bars I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a glass of wine in.

Tucked down a laneway off Little Bourke Street, the heart of the city’s China Town, is an open-air bar developed on a former car park site.

Section 8 Container Bar on Tattersalls Lane has a feel all of its own.

The bar is made from converted sea containers and the seats are nothing more than some old wooden pallets and throw cushions.

There are a few tables made from old oil drums, while covered crates provide bar stool-type seating.

It’s small and unassuming, considering the often-buoyant vibe of the nearby Chinese eateries. I certainly thought the only thing going on in this area was cheap cuisine.

Section 8 has reportedly been a blessing to the neighbourhood since it opened a couple of years ago. Before then the laneway was known as a haven for drug users who, seemingly annoyed by the increased foot traffic, have moved on.

We moved on too, but only after enjoying a few beers.

We strolled off to meet another friend but, before we could get to our destination, my girlfriend had dragged me away from the hustle and bustle of the Swanston Street shopping precinct and through a door with a sign saying ‘Cookie’ above it.

What I thought was a cookie store turned out to be a multi-tiered venue – a beer hall, a restaurant, a live music wine bar, and even a rooftop cinema, which turns into a wine bar when a movie isn’t showing. It truly was another world and I still can’t quite believe that all those people were sitting back having a few beers and a laugh, hidden from the busy retail strip below.

We eventually got to our destination, a dim and dark basement bar with the art on the walls available for purchase.

Of course we were in Melbourne, so there was plenty more exploring to do.

We ended at an up-market bar on the up-market Little Collins Street. Bar Lourinha was open until 1am and had no trouble taking our dinner booking despite the little hand of the clock hitting 10. We ordered a bunch of delicious tapas items to share as well as a bottle of pretty expensive wine.

Developing these types of places in Perth was behind much of the overhaul of WA’s liquor licensing laws.

A couple of new bars have emerged in Perth – maybe a sign Melbourne’s not the only place I can enjoy a comfortable glass of wine without having to shout over loud music or deal with the threat of someone spilling beer over me while I queue for a drink.

Amphoras in West Perth, 1907 Bar on Queen Street and Fremantle’s Essex Street Organic Wine Bar are just the start. They are the kinds of places where I am most likely to start catching up with friends after work.

Maybe that’s why I’m not bothered with the City of Subiaco’s negative stance on small bar licences. Apparently, the city reckons, it has too many liquor licences as it is. That may be the case, but over time I doubt it will just be me and my girlfriends who skip Subiaco, because there will be groovier places open elsewhere.

I suspect the City of Subiaco may be left attracting the people and anti-social behaviour its current anti-small bar policy is supposedly trying to avoid.


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