A difficult comeback for Spring St

By Rhonda Dredge

Allegations of branch stacking may be dominating the powerbrokers at Spring St, but locals along this prime piece of real estate are more concerned with getting the economy going. 

Restaurateurs are opening up venues and residents are hoping to see more action in their “little village”.

Di Stasio Citta re-opened last month and reported that Friday lunches were booked out.

And the street’s prime place for hanging out, City Wine Shop, was attracting back regulars, albeit with a minor setback.

The umbrellas were out, and the sun was shining but Yarra Trams chose last week to replace the tram lines in front of Parliament House, cutting Spring St in two.

Loyal customers, returning to re-establish patterns that defined their lives before the pandemic, were forced inside, instead of enjoying the winter sun on Melbourne’s peak pavement. 

“We don’t seem to be able to take a trick at the moment,” retail manager Jeremy Prideaux said. 

The café offers one of the best settings for classy, casual pavement dining but instead of overlooking Parliament House, the tables were butted up against cyclone fences. 

“It’s definitely a shock to the system and difficult to work out a response,” Jeremy said.

The street is one of many in the CBD gradually rediscovering its attractions and attempting to lure back locals before the workforce returns to the city.  

Jeremy said, “the hospitality industry in the CBD was hit first and hardest because the corporates closed down. A lot of suburban businesses benefitted.” 

One nearby business told CBD News they would have a rent bill in the hundreds of thousands of dollars by the time the moratorium ended in October.

Despite the setback, Jeremy said they’d had an “incredible” response to the re-opening of the first of their six CBD venues, which includes the Supper Club, The European and Siglo next door on Spring St and Kirk’s Wine Bar and the French Saloon in Hardware Lane. 

“We chose not to offer our menu take away,” he said. “We chose to channel through the Spring Street Grocer. It’s very important to us as a city wine shop to be present. We’ve been here for 20 years.”

One customer who had been a regular 7am breakfaster before the lockdown, has been in four times since the place re-opened even though he is working from home in Kew. “They’ve got their mojo back,” he said. 

His zeal speaks for the attraction of this popular street among the pollies, public servants and residents who are keen to see it spring back to life.

Restaurateur Ronnie Di Stasio has been sitting out the front of his eponymous  restaurant with his two dogs during the past few weeks.  

The restaurant was booked out for lunch but could only take 28 diners in two sittings because of the restrictions.

With just 10 per of the workforce back in the city, locals are standing out and playing an important part in the recovery. 

“I’ve bumped into so many people from the building,” resident of 35 Spring Street, a prime residential tower opposite Treasury Gardens, Jay Bonnington said.

“It’s paradise,” she said. “We love it here, the position. We can walk into the park. KereKere Green is open for takeaway. People are queuing there.”

Even though she and her husband are enjoying the quiet and the peace, she said that many of their favourite places had been slow to re-open because of their reliance on office workers. 

“I’d like to see the commerce side resuming,” she said. While she is loyal to the Chocolate Box in Collins Place, which toughed out the lockdown, she misses the variety of the Kino Centre •

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