Hard on the heels of the debate surrounding the on-street trading license of Sweetheart’s pizzeria comes this report in the Border Mail confirming that the comparative merits and potential perils of late night eateries in Dean Street are well and truly on the agenda.
The debate which is occurring in council chambers (and in the broader community) surrounds a police request to council to restrict the on-street trading of Sweetheart’s pizza after 12:00am and opposition to the proposal by the owner of the eatery and at least two members of council.
For as long as I’ve lived in Albury ( a few decades now) there has been this peculiar unspoken aspiration to “be like Melbourne”. Cafe culture becomes fashionable in Melbourne, Albury follows suit, trailing along like Pancho Sanchez is Wodonga.
My criticism of course is not with those individual venues, rather with the tendency on our part to blithely follow the Melbournian example rather than to develop an identity of our own. I think there are worse examples to follow than Melbourne, but I also think there are better ones, namely, our own.
I think in all honesty, Albury is all too willing to “cherry pick” certain aspects of Melbourne’s cultural identity, but when it comes to those things that truly set Melbourne apart -embracing multi-culturalism, challenging political conservatism, encouraging creativity and providing an appropriate environment for a thriving and vital arts community, taking a punt on the new, the experimental and the untested – sadly, we fall down badly.
Now the debate about on-street trading of food vendors has cited Carlton’s famous Lygon Street as an example of how late night restaurant trading can be a good thing for the community. I agree, it certainly can, more to the point however will it be a positive thing for THIS community, in THIS instance?
Firstly let me say that I think that any measure to challenge the aparent perception of Dean Street as a place where drunks congregate on a Friday or Saturday night can only be a good thing, however I think the comparison of Dean Street to Lygon Street is a flawed one.
Currently I think Dean Street has more in common with King Street after dark on a Friday or Saturday evening than with the popular restaurant strip. Really all that’s needed is a couple of strip-joints to cement Dean Street’s reputation as Albury’s “sleaze strip”. The meagre selection of “fare” on offer in our CBD in the later hours of the evening I would suggest is both tailor made for, and appeals exclusively to, the inebriated denizens of our main drag after dark.
Really I think there needs to be a changing of the guard in terms of Dean Street’s culinary offerings, but there is a long way to go before that can occur. Changing the geography of the street itself and the traffic laws to prevent hoons driving up and down the strip (a phenomenon synonymous with Lygon Street) has been an extremely positive move, this practice was previously so common it was colloquially known as a “Deanie”.
We need to clear the drunks, yahoos and troublemakers out of Dean Street before we can even look at changing the focus to one of a cosmopolitan late night gathering place.
Restricting late night trading is the next obvious step in reclaiming our main street from the “bogan” element.
I suspect that the drunks who congregate in Dean Street are much like the Sydney/ Melbourne bound heavy vehicles in the sense we won’t notice just how obnoxious they were until they are gone.