Despite the challenges of COVID-19 restrictions, a long list of gutsy Ballarat businesses have bitten the bullet and opened their doors in 2020, further expanding the city’s impressive hospitality and retail line-up.
At the start of this year, George Frossinos took a chance and opened a cafe on Eureka Street – somewhere that hasn’t had a coffee shop in the past 10 years.
Naming the cafe Mr Darby after his dachshund, George has since added Greek food and desserts to the menu and the locals are loving it.
In July, Camp Street welcomed The 18th Amendment Bar, a sister to the award-winning Geelong venue.
Named after the Prohibition which made it illegal to sell or consume alcohol in America between 1920 and 1933, The 18th Amendment takes patrons back in time to Chicago’s speakeasy bars.
During lockdown, the popular bar found a way to remain relevant with its audiences by offering virtual masterclasses – something they will continue to do post-COVID.
That same month, one of the city’s oldest pubs, the 163-year-old The North Star Hotel, opened after undergoing a major renovation.
The new owners have stated publicly their keenness to share the rich history of the gold rush era hotel while also breathing new life into the building, with a Melbourne-inspired layout and a glass atrium taking centre stage.
The Canberra Hotel owner Malcolm Roberts used the first COVID-19 lockdown to renovate and launch a complimentary tea room in the stables next door to his Macarthur Street hotel.
Another new indoor plant haven, Green Loft, has since opened in Quarry Lane, tucked away behind The Cheesecake Shop in Sturt Street.
2020 has seen has a hive of activity in Mair Street, with four new businesses opening to the public over the past four months.
In July, modern Italian restaurant Ragazzone started serving pasta and vino at 319 Mair Street.
The restaurant’s clever chefs have found the perfect way to transform Italian classics into a work of art on your plate – think squid ink capelli d’angelo, spanner crab, chilli and roe, or Ragazzone tiramisu with soft chocolate, meringue and chocolate glass.
One month later, and a little further along Mair Street, the pocket-sized Lilly’s opened and its coffee, chocolate, lollies and cake quickly becoming popular with locals.
September saw a changing of the guard at The Pub With Two Names, with new owners Christine Molloy and Richard McKeown of the Farmers Arms Hotel Creswick unveiling a fresh new look and menu at the historic Mair Street pub. And with new owners came a new name – The Highlander.
The interior features recycled industrial furniture and you’ll find pub classics on the menu with a big focus on local produce, in-house butchery and cured charcuterie.
Because of the hotel’s name, they’re also going to focus on whiskies with up to 100 variations on offer.
And where better to get on the beers than new Ballarat brewpub Aunty Jacks, which opened at 315-317 Mair Street in late October.
Aunty Jacks combines quality craft beer and food with hands-on experiences and events. Around 100,000 litres of beer – including lager, pale ale, stout and seasonal specials – will be produced on site each year.
Just down the road at 1 Doveton Street North, The Outpost has upped Ballarat’s menswear game with its hip line-up of “quality goods and genuine wear”, plus vintage clothing from the likes of Levi.
Owner Patrick Ibrahim has also collaborated with renowned Ballarat designer Travis Price to release a line of retro-inspired tees.
September marked the opening of a new Sturt Street restaurant serving up authentic Asian street food inspired by Malaysia and Singapore’s night markets.
Hawker On Sturt‘s hero dishes include peking duck, barbecue roast pork with cashews, and siu mai (steamed dumplings).
And just this month, local creative and owner of Ivy & Coco Bridget Veld opened her first bricks and mortar store in the Bridge Mall.
Having always found it difficult to find unique colourful pots to put her indoor plants in, Bridget found a gap in the market and started painting pots and planters at her dining room table.
After finding success online, she now sells homewares and her store also features a ‘pick your own’ flower bar.
The Essential Candle Co was another business which made the shift from online to CBD outlet in October, setting up shop at 610 Sturt Street.
The heavenly-scented store sells hand-poured pure soy wax candles and melts plus bath and body products, with plans to host candle-making workshops in the future.
You can also shop small and support local businesses at the new drive-through Eureka Street Food & Wine Store.
Pre-packaged meals, grocery items, local produce, coffee, salads, cakes and slices are among the items available for purchase from 6.30am weekdays and 7.30am weekends.
Located at 152 Eureka Street, the store is a collaboration between Mercure Ballarat Hotel and Convention Centre, Azzuri, Billy’s Takeway & Delivery, Carboni’s and Good 4U Meals.
In response to coronavirus restrictions on farmers’ markets, the owners of Navigators’ Spring Creek Organics made the decision to focus on their farmgate experience.
Established six years ago, David and Lisa Tatman’s farmgate shop has gone from sideline to lifeline since March.
Housed in an old shipping container in Kielys Road, it brims with freshly harvested produce, milk from the neighbour’s dairy and local eggs.
The Ballarat Mushroom Farm also transformed the way it does business in 2020, launching a new farmgate experience at their Smythesdale property in May.
They keep adding to the offering of local produce for sale, which includes The Preserver’s Pot homemade sauces, Basillio bread, Mr Jones and Big Jims Chilli Co hot sauces, Charisma Coffee, Goldfields Farmhouse Cheese, Meredith Dairy goat cheese and yoghurt, Harcourts juices, Caravan Eggs and the Inglenook Dairy range.
With so many great new offerings, now is the perfect time to plan your first – or fifteenth – visit to Ballarat.
And if you’re loving a new Ballarat business that’s not yet on this list, share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org