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August 10, 2023

Whatever happened to… Leigh Street?

The streets of Adelaide have changed.

  • Leigh Street Luggage in 2015
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  • Words: Josh Fanning

Whatever happened to Leigh Street… Luggage, selling Rimowa suitcases?

Whatever happened to Coffee Branch?


This is a weekly column by CityMag founder Josh Fanning exploring how the city has changed – or hasn’t – since he started the city magazine 10 years ago.

Read the other articles in this series here.

Whatever happened to Rory Bourke, the Irish expat who took over the giant Sarah’s Sisters Sustainable Café site and transformed it into a snake-charming, taiko-drumming, WOMAD-every-weekend restaurant and bar called Casablabla?

I don’t know. But things have changed.

There was a meeting upstairs at Udaberri a month or so after it opened. The then Attorney-General John Rau had invited the owners of several small businesses there to discuss liquor licensing.

Udaberri had just scraped through the process, opening their doors on Leigh Street with an Entertainment Venue Licence for their small bar.

Udaberri had wasted months (and tens of thousands of dollars) trying to attain a different licence; one they felt more appropriate to the nature of their Basque-inspired hospitality offering. The AG was keen to hear about the licensing process. He was keen to make it better.

The Small Venue Liquor Licence radically and exponentially changed the face of the city.

Leigh Street Luggage was opened in the 1970s by CityMag favourite Julie Barnes as a specialist travel atelier. Her knowledge of luggage, of travel, of the world in general made Leigh Street a bright spot on the map and a reason to visit and to tell others to visit. Now it’s a bar. There’s a bar behind that bar (my wife told me last week).

There’s a bar in what was COS Restaurant. There’s a bar in what was the Dry Cleaner. There’s even an award-winning bar in what was the alleyway between two buildings.

But where’s the neighbourhood?

This column I’m writing has a confused hopscotch logic. It oscillates between lambasting the past and lamenting the present. It’s meant to lampoon the impotent boomer columnists of the News Corp genre. It’s meant to be funny; often it is not.

The question I pose this week (Whatever happened to Leigh Street?) however, is a tad more serious.

What happens when a street’s shopfronts stop opening during the day? What happens when the vintage retailer, Map Shop, S&M corset shop gets priced out of the rent market?

What happens when our Dry Cleaners start selling liquid and our travel stores start selling Aviation Gin?

What happens when Alec the barber stops… being a barber?

Or has that happened already?

It’s been a while since I ventured down Leigh Street, but then again, I am trying to drink less.


(Editor’s note: Alec and his gang are still cutting hair, the banter is still the same, and Alec spends a good part of his day voluntarily taking delivery of booze destined for neighbouring bars.)

(Another Editor’s note: Coffee Branch is still open and slinging caffeine, and their baked goods are as delectable as ever.)

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