Why Dean Street isn’t Lygon.

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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.

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About alburywodongaonline

Hi I'm Jack Stone (a pseudonym), I'm a long-time Albury resident and I think it's a great place to live and work. I have a strong interest in local events and media and I started this site because I think a different perspective is often needed when reporting local news. I take a keen interest in local politics, as well as what's going on at the state and federal level, I'm also a supporter of social justice issues, the envirionment and the need for people to have a say in the events that effect their lives. I'm a fan of the Border Bandits and I'd love to see both teams take the flag this year, and next year, and maybe the one after that too.
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9 Responses to Why Dean Street isn’t Lygon.

  1. Greg Naylor says:

    I have a 40 y.o. son who lives in Fitzroy. On a recent visit, I asked him to show me the underbelly of Melbourne … and boy, did I get a surprise.

    The cafe culture of Lygon St, Brunswick St, etc. is not about getting drunk or staying out all night.

    The majority of the clients are the local community, living alone in tiny flats who use these facilities as meeting places much like we have a few friends around.

    In fact, there is a new type of establishment in these areas known as “the third place”. The first place is home, the second is work, and the third is a public meeting place for friends to gather – have a coffee, beer, or even nothing at all.

    These are small shops, licenced, and fitted out like a loungeroom.

    My tour of Melbourne’s underbelly showed me there is a much higher level of local community and inter-dependence on one another than I have seen in N.E.Victoria in the 10 years I have lived here since escaping from Melbourne.

    The perception of Melbourne’s cafe culture in the country is far from the mark and if the locals around here think they are emulating the big smoke, they have missed the boat entirely.

  2. raydixon says:

    The problem with the idea of turning Dean Street into a late night dining strip a la Lygon Street in Melbourne is Albury, unlike Melbourne, does not have a population of 4 million people to draw on.

    If Lygon Street can attract say 1,000 people to dine into the small hours (and I think that would be about the extentent of the after-midnight dining) then in proportion the best Dean Steet could hope for is about 20 people. And that does not a cosmopolitan atmosphere make.

    Great post though and I might do a referral post on it myself.

  3. raydixon says:

    That should read “the extent of …”

  4. Pingback: Dean Street daydream for Albury’s nightlife « Alpine Opinion

  5. Greg, Fitzroy is a wonderful area, I lived there myself for a while actually.
    I was there during the heroin epidemic of ’99 and that was pretty unpleasant but oddly enough it didn’t seem as violent as Dean Street on a Friday or Saturday night.
    Obviously there were violent incidents, unpleasant things like overdoses and so on, but I think in terms of anti-social behaviour, Dean Street is very, very bad.
    The whole atmosphere is different isn’t it?
    The emphasis is on having fun rather than drinking to excess, obviously we still have a lot to learn in that regard.

    Ray I think populaton does play a part but I think the essential criteria is culture, Albury has still kept the “country culture” which accepts excessive fall-down drinking as “normal”.
    I think we need to remedy that mentality and until we do we’ll always have that “poor country cousin” tag.

  6. raydixon says:

    Getting drunk and getting into a fight is synonomous with living in the country and always will be in relatively small towns & regional centres.

    Albury’s best hope is population “explosion”, which looks a distinct possibility over the next 10 years as Melburnians (and some, not many, from Sydney) recognise the benefits of “cashing up & getting out of the rat-race”.

    I honestly believe Albury-Wodonga is set to see massive growth and when it does it might finally dilute that backwater, hick, country-town mentality.

    Cities ain’t perfect but they are more diversified than one-street & one-horse towns. If Albury had a population of say 200,000 instead of 80,000 it’d be a far more cosmopolitan place to live.

  7. Yes, and it’s naive to think there is no violence in Metropolitain areas also, but the culture of public drunken-ness is certainly tolerated less by the populace and most certainly tolerated less by the police.
    It is the eternal question isn’t it? Does Albury want to be a city or a town?
    Incidentally I was in Griffith over the Easter long weekend and I notice their next influx of migration is becoming entrenched in the form of people from the Indian sub-continent. I picked up a few goodies from an excellent Indian grocery store there.
    Even though it is a much smaller town than Albury, I don’t think there is any doubt whatsoever that Griffith is a more multi-cultural city, consequently they enjoy greater access to amenities, food and cultural events (such as the annual Italian “Festa”) than population centres many times it’s size.

  8. raydixon says:

    Ah yes, but Griffith has a rather healthy (black market) economy to sustain it! I imagine there are a lot of Italian style cafes and eateries there that don’t have to actually turn a profit if you get my drift.

    Actually we’ve got one like that in Bright. It’s not Italian but it’s being going for about 7 years, hardly ever opens, yet still manages to pay the rent. The owner is known to be, er, connected.

  9. Ray Griffith earned it’s reputation for cannibis cultivation back in the 1970’s around the time of the Don McKay “disappearance”, due mainly to police corruption and a well organised mafia connection led by Robert Trimbole.
    I think you’ll find it’s been cleaned up a lot since then.
    If there IS mafia activity in Griffith, they keep a very low profile because no-one has heard a thing from them since the 70’s.
    I think you’ll find the local economy is sustained by wine grape production (which is nearly as lucrative as cannibis anyway). All legal, all above board.
    Ethically questionable yes, but certainly legal.

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