“Having always lived in the shadow of its gregarious eastern-seaboard cousins, the ‘City of Churches’ has been quietly loosening its pious shackles and embracing its liberal foundations” – Lonely Planet.
In the frenzy that is ‘mad March’, it would be remiss of me not to recognise just how far Adelaide has come in a short space of time. Gone are the days of ‘boring’, ‘conservative’, and ‘bland’ connotations, where Adelaide is merely a gateway to a greater destination, a stop-over or even a scoffed at holiday suggestion. The perception is changing, and don’t we love it!
In 2012, the State Government made it a strategic priority to create a ‘vibrant city’, noting it is essential that Adelaide competes nationally and internationally for people and investment and thrives as a cultural, economic and social centre for the state. While the new Adelaide Oval has been revolutionary (as expected), it is the transformation of the CBD’s underutilised laneway space that has had a significant impact on the ‘vibe’ of this city.
A key element in the activation of Adelaide’s laneway network has been the South Australian government’s amendment to the Liquor Licensing Act 1997 – providing for a new category of small venue (maximum capacity of 120 persons) within the CBD. With the aim of both reinvigorating these underused thoroughfares and stimulating small business activity, the small venue licence provides flexibility and simplicity to entrepreneurs within Adelaide’s hospitality industry.
Even in its fledgling state, the licence has had an exciting impact on the city. Since 2013, 42 Small Venue licences have been issued, with a further 11 awaiting approval. Along with the social benefits of increased activity and vibrancy in the CBD, there is also an associated broader uplift for the local economy. Renewal SA estimates that 200 jobs have been created and AUD 5million invested in the establishment of Adelaide’s small licensed venues.
So far, Adelaide’s West-End has been the main benefactor, with the creation of a number of unique, high quality food and wine bars along Peel, Leigh and Bank Streets adding a cultural edge to Adelaide’s entertainment precinct. Leigh Street, the home of popular establishments Udaberri and Casablabla, is the first in a series of streets to be closed to traffic. The redevelopment of Adelaide Oval and Riverbank Precinct paired with the impending relocation of the Royal Adelaide Hospital, give rise for these North-South laneways to become the ant-tracks of the city– linking employment and entertainment hotspots throughout the CBD.
Of the 42 licences issued – 30 new establishments have opened, with the stimulatory effect of this policy in the midst of broader economic challenges a striking endorsement for the state government’s ‘Vibrant City’ program. The unique offering of a small, locally run bar scene is something previously unseen in Adelaide; surprising given our renowned food & wine industries.
Will the revitalisation stagnate in the near future? Absolutely not – the State Government, in February, announced a new ‘City Makers’ program, offering grants of up to $20,000 for entrepreneurs looking to set up business in Adelaide’s CBD. When paired with the existing initiatives and forecast CBD population growth of 69% between 2015 and 2036, the stage is set for the ‘City of Churches’ to continue its exciting rise from the shadows.