Promenade restaurants deal with impacts of hoarding

Rhonda Dredge

A two-and-a-half-metre-high black hoarding erected last month in front of the restaurants at Hamer Hall is expected to block diners’ view of the river until late July.

The hoarding was put up by the City of Melbourne to shield pedestrians from works along the riverbank.

It extends for about 100 metres from Princes Bridge, creating a narrow canyon on Southbank Boulevard.

The works will widen the boulevard to improve congestion for an estimated 40,000 users but in the meantime two restaurants are impacted.

Yosuke Katanaka, executive chef at Saké, a Japanese fusion restaurant, told Southbank News he arrived at the restaurant about a month ago to discover that scaffolding had been erected, and has been the one on the ground forced to explain the situation to customers.

Mr Katanaka expressed his disappointment with the level of communication about the construction works and the impacts to the business, but the City of Melbourne has vigorously maintained that Hamer Hall and all stakeholders, including promenade restaurants, have been extensively consulted over the course of the past three months.

Yarra River Business Association (YRBA) executive officer Tim Bracher confirmed this, stating that the council’s business and community consultation had “improved significantly in recent years, especially with regard to more major disruptive projects.”
“Direct contact and regular project fact sheets has meant that we as a business association can quickly communicate issues through to our members and provide feedback to the council,” he said.

But Mr Katanaka said the impacts from the hoarding on business had been immediate.

“On the first night there were a lot of complaints from guests,” he said. “They travel from far away and like to sit in the outdoor area to enjoy the Yarra.”

He said the restaurant has had a lot of cancellations since then. “There’s no view. It looks like a construction site.”

The tops of city buildings are still visible from the indoor area of the restaurant and the sunshine makes its way in for the Friday lunch sitting if you’re lucky.

The restaurant is known for its king fish sashimi, a dish called hiramasa, which comes from a sustainable farm in Port Lincoln fed by the algal-rich waters of Antarctica.

The fish are happy because they are treated so well, according to Mr Katanaka, but what about his customers?

“We want to put the word out there. The height could be reduced a metre or so. It’s [the view’s] worth fighting for,” he said.

Next door, pizza restaurant Teatro is in a similar position. A spokesperson for the business said their custom had dropped by 30 to 40 per cent since the hoarding was erected.

They said the business had been advised by the council and hoped their customers could find them.

According to the council, the works were delayed to support small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 lockdowns and businesses were advised, after a lengthy period of consultation.

Stage One of the Southbank Promenade upgrade will involve replacing bluestone paving, upgrading lighting, new seating, reconfiguring stairs and ramps between promenade levels, and adding more trees, including replacing dying trees and planting new native trees.

The works in front of the Hamer Hall are expected to last three months.  •

 

Caption: Saké chef Yosuke Katanaka in the dark canyon outside his restaurant.

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