Local stalwart hopes for ferry-tale ending in new café bid
By Brendan Rees
Like many businesses in Docklands, Jeff Gordon’s Lady Cutler Melbourne Showboat has been hit hard by the pandemic. But the popular boatman and local identity hopes to turn the tide after unveiling plans to open a small café.
While cruising has been on hold until restrictions ease, Mr Gordon said he was looking to pivot his pride and joy business by offering “coffee and cake” on the Cutler’s foredeck, just in time for the warmer months ahead.
“We’re going to put a new application in for a café,” he told Docklands News, which would operate from 8am to 5pm with cruises operating in the evenings.
“We got knocked back last year for putting something down on the pier itself, so we’re not even going to try that this year.”
Last September, Mr Gordon pitched a proposal to the City of Melbourne in the hope of opening a gourmet burger and beer bar with live music next to Cow Up A Tree in a bid to bring back much-need life to the harbour.
But unfortunately, his submission for his restaurant, which would have included using locally sourced ingredients and offering diners sweeping views of the waterfront, was knocked back by the council last November.
Mr Gordon said he was disappointed by the outcome after putting “quite a bit of money into it last year upgrading our kitchen and getting the burgers and beers up and running”.
He said he planned to lodge his latest application to the council in the coming weeks but hadn’t had “any feedback as to whether we’ll get it or not”.
Mr Gordon said his proposed café would feature an awning, table and chairs, and a pop-up coffee bar on the Lady Cutler’s foredeck.
People can come get a coffee and sit on the Cutler outside or just takeaway and go. We’re not going to put anything substantial on it, it’s just going to be coffee and cake basically.
Under the state government’s road map out of lockdown, hospitality and cruising can resume for up to 150 people when the state reaches its 80 per cent double-dose target, presumed to be around November 5.
Mr Gordon’s proposal comes after an application by Port Phillip Ferries to build a new ferry terminal and community hub on Harbour Esplanade, which proposes to feature a café, was given the tick of approval by the City of Melbourne in September.
According to Mr Gordon, it appeared to be a case of “double standards” that Port Phillip Ferries had a café approved but his burger and beers bar proposal was knocked back.
“The government was saying ‘expand your businesses to the outside area’, and we put it to council … and we did all the requirements, and it was refused,” he said.
“Why didn’t they work with us when we were trying to do the same thing to pivot out of lockdown?”
“We’ve been trying to do it on a shoestring budget as best we can … what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander.”
“We all have to work together. It would be nice if we could all share the water in a positive way.” •