New bars, eateries, events give Ballarat fresh lease of life

BALLARAT is cool again, and we're not talking about the weather.

Maybe not in a hip hop homeboy kind of way but there's something that has been evolving in the past 12 months that is providing an energy that has been missing in recent years.

It's difficult to put a finger exactly on Ballarat's new vibe because it's not just one element of change which is making the city a destination from those who might not otherwise had visited.

This summer has provided the undeniable definition that what has been developing over a low period now is paying dividends.

Most obvious to our eyes is the changing entertainment culture developing in the central business district.

Few will forget grungey late night venues such as the Bridge Hotel and Rafters and the reputations created by them. No, it wasn't all bad - but these were venues of a different era.

There's fewer nightclubs in Ballarat's CBD now than ay time in the past 20 years.

In their place, a more relaxed social environment is flourishing. To emphasize the point, take a walk along Lydiard Street between Sturt and Mair. There's wine bars, outdoor dining, rooftop ventures and constant development. It also feels safer, even if problems still exist mainly in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Businesses are investing in our city, providing options that we have often been envious of in our metropolitan and regional cousins.

Ballarat can now claim to have a greater diversity of eating options in the CBD than ever before, with one glaring omission.

There is cool pizza (a tautology, I know), options for exquisite tastes and an atmosphere which encourages activity.

The lack of international eateries is one area that could do with some innovation. What can we do to open the minds to greater food diversity?

The dead summer period has been replaced with a series of events which has opened the eyes to visitors that Ballarat is not just a place to visit to rediscover history.

A beer festival - which is much more civilized than many would imagine - a cycling event which attracts an international audience and last week another new addition, the Rockabilly festival which lit up much-maligned Camp Street.

This weekend, tens of thousands will stay I the city fossicking not for gold but car parts. The swap meet, in its second year under the operation of Rotary is severely underestimated in its size and scope.

There's more to come. Possibly the city's daggiest destination Kryal Castle has been given a total overhaul. Later this year, the desperately unsuccessful Eureka Centre will be reborn as an interactive centre for exploring democracy.

Call me a square but it's a tad exciting.

The revelation is that the new cool is being driven not solely by the organizations on which Ballarat has often relied. Private operators and those with no baggage from old Ballarat are investing with confidence.

That this has been enabled should be celebrated.

More people are discovering what our city has to offer. While visitors are catching on in large numbers, many locals remain blissfully unaware, grappling with the many I portent issues that do remain unresolved or that still see a divide between the haves and have-nots in our community.

But its worthwhile at the moment to Take the advice of those superstar songwriters of the 1980s Pseudo Echo and take me to the Funky Town, because there's something happening here that we all should be part of.

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