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(A sailor’s) Home is where the Hearth is
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Editions
August 09 Edition Cover

Sorry, we’re closed for food

29 Oct 2012

So far this year, Docklands has lost about 40 per cent of its restaurants.

NewQuay has been hardest hit, but the 16 closures have been spread across all precincts.

NewQuay has been particularly susceptible to the collapse of Lou Jovanovski’s collection of Docklands restaurants which had been steadily increasing in number over the years.

The Docklands Directory of 2010 advertised nine of Mr Jovanovski’s Docklands offerings, but he walked away from the last one in September blaming “greedy landlords” as the primary source of his problems.

Of the 44 restaurants listed in the 2012 Docklands Directory (http://www.docklandsdirectory.com.au), 16 have closed their doors.  In NewQuay, Docklands has lost Blue Fire Charrascaria Grill;

Funky Curry; Grill66 Steakhouse and Wine Bar; Kobe Jones; Livebait; Mecca Bah; Mischa’s Pizza, Pasta and Salad; and Shiraaz.

In Victoria Harbour Indian Mirchi; Messini; and Madonna’s at the Docks have closed and near the stadium Docklands has lost Docked and Lamore.  

In Harbour Town, Orient Express never really got going before closing.  Melbourne Bay Restaurant in Digital Harbour closed last month, while Wilson’s Boat House at North Wharf ceased trading earlier this year.

Other hospitality outlets to close in Docklands this year are Urban Burger on the Stadium Concourse and MYO in Batman’s Hill Drive.

Mr Jovanovski said his Rivers Group of restaurants had been “keeping the lights on” in NewQuay and Waterfront City for the past seven years.

He said the various developers would approach him each time an incumbent operator folded and each time he would step into the breach.

Mr Jovanovski said most leases in the area were signed between 2005 and 2007 when there was a completely different market.  

“It was a totally different market back then. It was a world of promise,” he said. “We tried to hang on but it was no longer do-able.”

He said landlords had refused to offer realistic rentals and now it was too late.

“They’ve shot themselves in the foot because now they have ended up with a ghost town,” Mr Jovanovski said. “They have totally devalued their own investments.”

Other Rivers Group properties to close in Docklands in recent years include Hot Chocolate, Saganaki Greek Cuisine, Fish Seafood Grill and Yum Cha Dragon.

He said he had lost $10 million, was very angry and was taking 12 months off to recharge.

In 2007, The Age wrote: “While Jovanovski’s restaurants may not always get enthusiastic critical acclaim, they do draw a crowd, some feat considering the often ghost town-like atmosphere in Docklands.”

Mr Jovanovski was also critical of the time taken to rebuild the Southern Star Observation Wheel and the vigour and direction of marketing Docklands.

He said he had previously organised and co-ordinated highly successful marketing campaigns promoting Docklands but had been sidelined by the establishment of Destination Docklands.

“They said I had a conflict of interest,” he said. “The only thing I can see that they have achieved since had been to wrap a tram in the City of Melbourne’s colours.”

Docklands Chamber of Commerce president Stephen Clement said it was vital to remain focused on the good things about Docklands.

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