The owners of the iconic Subiaco Hotel are hoping a multimillion-dollar transformation will bring back punters who have abandoned the inner-city hub, as Subiaco looks to pull itself out of the crossroads.
Michael and Judy Monaghan yesterday took WestBusiness on a tour of the new-look Subiaco institution, which they hope to have up and running by April.
And though the couple say the timing of the renovation is purely coincidental, it signals the start of what the broader Subiaco business community hopes is a regeneration of what was arguably once WA's most vibrant precinct.
"These types of things will bring people back to Subiaco," Mr Monaghan said, gesturing to the scores of tradies working on the historic hotel.
"Everyone knows it is not what it was five years ago."
The historic pub, which the Monaghans have operated since 1971, will have a new mezzanine floor, a "stellar lounge" upstairs as well as an extension of its courtyard and downstairs bar area and a rooftop-style open balcony.
The restaurant, which has been a business lunch staple for the past two decades, will remain essentially unchanged, with the extended bar areas offering a new casual food component.
It is the type of regeneration Subiaco has lacked over the past five years.
Retailers on once-thriving Rokeby Road have gradually been replaced by optometrists and banks, as the combination of high rents, parking issues and the pull of nearby precincts created a perfect storm.
While attractions in prime locations, such as the Subiaco Pavilion Markets, have been sitting idle since 2007 following a string of high-rise proposals rejected by the local council.
For Subiaco Business Association president Geoff Parnell, the stagnation comes down to one main factor.
"It's the different vision from different local government authorities," Mr Parnell, an experienced corporate adviser, said.
"Look at the City of Perth, they are creating a vibrant place where people want to come to. During the same period the City of Subiaco was actually restraining the number of small bars in the area."
Mr Parnell was referring to Subiaco's 2007 planning policy, which recommends a ban on the approval of any licensed premises within a 100m radius of the intersection of Rokeby Road and Hay Street and Rokeby and Roberts roads. The policy is scheduled "for review" this year.
Mr Parnell said it was an extension of an "anti-development" sentiment which had engulfed some sections of the council.
"It's made it very frustrating for developers," Mr Parnell said. "And I know a lot are waiting for the local government amalgamations before they proceed with their projects."
Subiaco mayor Heather Henderson rejected the anti-development tag, pointing to a number of projects on the way.
They included the redevelopment of the Ace Cinemas site into a retail zone, 217-bed hotel, office space and new cinema.
She said the Subiaco Markets building, where the owners want to build a 16-storey development for the site, required a new rezoning proposal. The State Government is currently considering the proposal.
Summing up the dichotomy of Subiaco's future, the Monaghans differ in their views about issues such as the 100m exclusion for licensed premises, with Mr Monaghan not wanting "another Northbridge" in Subiaco. Mrs Monaghan said she welcomed the competition. But both agree that Subiaco is on the verge of a recharge that will once again make it Perth's go-to destination.