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‘One person’s trash is another person’s treasure’ certainly rings true when considering the spate of nostalgic bars, café’s, shops and even cinema’s cropping up around Australia.

From Brisbane to Sydney, Melbourne to Adelaide and across to Perth – when it comes to the hottest new cafés and bars, old is in.

So what’s driving this trend?

Renowned interior stylist and creative director, and owner of Sydney’s The Society Inc. store, Sibella Court, believes the swing towards nostalgic shop fit outs is the result of how customers are relating to spaces.

“A more nostalgic shop fit out or what I consider a more residential feel [means] customers can recognise something in it that reminds them of their style, house or something they can aspire to,” Court told Dynamic Business.

“Whether its clothes or home wares, the textures are warmer, more fun and more approachable. [And] if they walk away with an idea for their house as well as a clothing item, all the better to remember the shop and the brand,” she added.

In Brisbane, new offerings include Kerbside in Fortitude Valley (replete with an old warehouse location and second hand ‘Grandma style’ sofa’s, tables and chairs) and Lefty’s Oldtime Music Hall in Petrie Terrace, both of which are capitalising on this trend.

Lefty’s is in fact the latest venture in this style for successful bar owners Jamie Webb (of Cabiria and Peasant fame) and business partner Jason Scott, of Sydney’s Shady Pines Saloon.

Sydney’s small bar scene is in itself a case study in what Court described: a return to the familiar, ‘residential’ aesthetic. What’s more, the City of Sydney council has played no small part in the spate of new retail, small bar and café spaces opened in this style.

Richard Roberts, Business Advisor at the City of Sydney said the council is fostering the activation of spaces, and encouraging businesses to think carefully about the materials used in constructing new premises.

“It seems to be working, and we are seeing [business owners] recycling more materials and buying and restoring old furniture which is giving character and appeal to new businesses,” Roberts said.

Keep these pointers to keep in mind before getting nostalgic:

  • Whether it’s a new product harking back to the days of old, or a themed establishment, remember to keep it relevant to your target market. What may work in one suburb could be totally wrong for the demographic of another.
  • Don’t overdo or rely on nostalgia. The customer will be the one generating the emotion for themselves.


Lefty’s Oldtime Music Hall, 15 Caxton Street, Petrie Terrace:

A Saturday night visit saw this new bar teaming with patrons. The red walls and vintage chandeliers of the previous tenant (a gentleman’s club) contribute to the 1930s saloon/ carnival aesthetic. As in the style of Scott’s Sydney bar, Shady Pines Saloon, the bar also includes an array of taxidermy animal heads, complimentary peanuts, and vintage low lighting.


The Hazy Rose, 1/83 Stanley Street, Darlinghurst:

This little bar packs a punch. An unassuming entry leads to a bar with friendly staff and reasonably priced drinks. Patrons can sip their beverage at an old church pew booth, or a well-worn wooden table. The old-fashioned theme is complimented by old-fashioned service.


The Classroom, 1/356 Charles St, North Perth:

It’s your childhood on steroids! From light fixtures made out of bicycle wheels, to menus fashioned from exercise books – this bar is a trip down memory lane. Owners Daniel Sterpini and Adam Keane have gone wild on 1970s Australiana, but they’ve also got stellar eats and drinks.

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Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie is the editor-at-large of Dynamic Business. Stephanie brings with her a passion for journalism, business, and new ideas. On her days off, you might find her reading a book on the beach.

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