For Jack Timbs – a local and regular at Fortunate Son, a small bar that opened in 2019 – the street is less focused on university students, like King Street, and caters to a middle-aged demographic of people in their early 30s to late 50s.
“Fortunate Son is excellent: the vibe is very cool, the staff make you feel welcome, and the drinks are amazing,” he said. “Then you have Manoush for fast food, the Warren View pub. There are so many small places to go to.”
Wijesena said Enmore Road’s steady success as a nighttime destination – propelled by the theatre as its centrepiece and a range of diverse food and drink options – had slowly attracted more experienced hospitality ventures to the area.
One of the latest venues to join the strip this year is Bar Planet, a martini bar opened by the Mucho Aloha hospitality group behind Sydney joints Cantina OK, Tio’s and Cliff Dive.
“What’s happening is you’ve got a better calibre of operator coming in, offering something that’s quality and also genuine,” Wijesena said.
Relatively cheaper rent – which drew Wijesena to the strip five years ago – also allows a degree of experimentation. But the other part of the high street’s success has always been there: a diverse range of food, price and entertainment offerings.
“You can go to Oporto and spend five bucks on a burger. You can go to Cairo Takeaway and spend 20 bucks on a falafel plate. Keep going up to Queen Chow’s and spend 500 bucks on Chinese food. And there’s everything in between,” Wijesena said.
“Nigerian, Egyptian, Filipino – pick a cuisine, there’s probably some representation of it on the street.”
Michael Rodrigues, the state’s 24-hour economy commissioner, said he had always experienced Enmore as an inclusive and welcoming place. “That’s partly about the types of people, but it’s also about the variability of offering and different prices,” he said.
“What underpins it is the community focus, owners who care, landlords who are reasonable. All of those things together mean it’s a great place for people to come out to, not only for a special occasion, but regularly. That is what we’d love to describe as vibrancy: people being out having fun in the community.”
Wijesena said that sense of community comes from the fact most people who work in the area live there too. “As a result, we all know each other. There’s a real sense of community that’s grown organically over 20 years. That’s something you can’t really create in a fake district.”
Lou Dowlings, who opened destination wine shop P&V Cellars on Enmore Road five years ago, has lived in the area for almost two decades. She remembers when the street was “struggling a little bit” but says people have been moving into smaller properties and making things happen for about a decade.
“We moved in [to Enmore Road] because we love Newtown, we love Enmore, we wanted to create the space that we want to go to,” she said. “A few people who have taken over defunct places, or places that have been run down, they’ve done it because they really love the area, and they want to bring life to it.”
For Dowlings, the generational diversity is one of the best outcomes. “Everyone surprises you all the time. You can’t be like: ‘Oh, it’s young people’. It’s literally everyone,” she said.
“You love it when a couple in their 70s comes in and they’re like: ‘We’re having a date night’. Or 19-year-old kids telling you: ‘pet nat [wines] are so cool’. And then you run into them at a bar, or they come back to buy the smallest bottle of wine they can or the most expensive champagne.”
The entertainment precinct trial, which begins on Thursday and stays in place until the end of November, will add another layer to what the street can offer.
It will allow venues to host live entertainment without red tape, extend trading hours, and protect them from noise complaints by funnelling them through the council instead of regulators. Inner West Council Mayor Darcy Byrne wants to changes to be permanent.
“It will mean that literally every retail shop on Enmore Road can automatically host live music and cultural events without any approval process. This is what we’ve been fighting for, for years, and it’s key to taking Enmore Road to the next level,” he said.
“It’s a great time to be an Enmore resident, or visitor from elsewhere to Enmore Road.”
The local businesses are also optimistic. “You see the effect of the Enmore Theatre when something’s on – it doesn’t matter what it is, last week it was a Greek singer – all the restaurants are busy, everyone is coming and going,” Wijesena said.
“As long as we’ve got like lots of little things on, and there’s bands and DJs and spoken word [poetry] and comedy, whatever – then you can create this natural foot traffic.”
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