Brunswick Street's SoJo (that's South of Johnston) revival is picking up pace with the reopening this month of the Old Colonial Inn, replete with a rooftop bar to rival nearby Naked in the Sky.
Renamed 127 Brunswick, it's the brainchild of Vince Sofo and Paul Adamo, owners of St Kilda's Esplanade Hotel. They're planting their flag northside after spending the past three and a half years revamping the derelict boozer into an almost unrecognisable five-level venue.
"We were stuck in VCAT for a year and a half, fighting about getting our late liquor licences for the three outdoor spaces, plus we like to do it all ourselves," says Sofo. "We do the fit-out, the furniture, the music. It takes time."
Featuring their signature richly detailed pop art and recycled aesthetic, 127 Brunswick will be home to an izakaya much like their two existing Japanese restaurants, one next to the Espy and the other in South Yarra. Ichi Ni Nana will be headed by chef Razmy Gaffer (ex-Nobu), while the Village People Hawker Food Hall has recruited former Longrain chef Arte Assavakavinvong. Upside Rooftop Bar, on top of the third floor, will have DJs and views across Carlton to the city.
And what about the revamp of the Espy? The landmark pub has been closed since May, with rumours of an upper-floor restaurant being created to capitalise on the bay views. Sofo is tightlipped: "We'll begin reopening parts of it in time for summer. Stay tuned."