New CBD bars given go-ahead

By David Schout

As CBD nightlife continues to bounce back from COVID-19, new bars on Lonsdale St and Bourke St have received a thumbs-up from the City of Melbourne. 

The council granted HQ Group, which also owns Arbory Afloat on the Yarra River, permission to launch two new bars as part of its soon-to-open four-level hospitality venue at 270 Lonsdale St.

The new venture, which will feature independent drinking and eating venues on each level, was given the green light to operate separate bars on both the rooftop and lower floors.

Under the planning permit amendment, the rooftop bar can host up to 125 patrons and remain open until 1am, while the 200-patron bar on the ground and first floor can stay open until 3am. 

HQ group has spent recent years renovating the heritage-listed building, which was once home to cigarette manufacturer Sniders and Abrahams.

Council planning chair Cr Nicholas Reece said he had faith the venue, which sits opposite the Melbourne Emporium shopping centre, would be appropriately managed.

“This is a venue that would be run by the current owners of Arbory and Arbory Afloat, who I must say have done as exceptional job with that venue on the Yarra River,” he said at an April 20 Future Melbourne Committee meeting. 

Objections to the application were received from residents on the adjacent Drewery Lane, in particular regarding the amenity impacts of patrons leaving the venue post-1am.

As a result, the council recommended venue management filtered departing patrons onto Lonsdale St (rather than Drewery Lane) at this time.

“This will not unreasonably burden the applicant and will reduce the likelihood of disturbance to residents,” the officers’ report said. 

Meanwhile, the council has also approved a small-scale bar at the top end of Bourke St.

The “relatively modest” bar next door to the former Palace Theatre will operate as a combined bar and bottle shop, and can remain open until 1am. 

It too received 18 objections and the applicant, Lino Scidone — owner of Southbank restaurant La Camera — agreed to reduce patron numbers from 150 to 120. 

Deputy planning chair Cr Rohan Leppert said while he “empathised” with objectors, the council had little reason to deny the permit. 

“The policy that we have in our planning scheme about [bar] uses in this category really say that you’ve got to make a strong case for post-1am permitted use. But up to 1am for a small venue like this, fully enclosed, there really isn’t an issue,” he said at a May 4 Future Melbourne Committee meeting.” 

“So, whilst I understand the concerns of objectors … this is something that is 100 per cent supported by our policy framework.”

The council said that no bottles or other waste material could be removed from the site between 9pm and 7am to reduce noise.

Cr Leppert said it was imperative for new bars to coexist harmoniously. 

“I’m sure the message is heard loud and clear that it is the easiest path to being a good citizen is by keeping those bottles quiet, by ensuring patrons leave as quietly as possible, and I very much hope that like many other well-managed venues in this part of town, this will be an addition.” •

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