Art gallery opens champagne bar to entice visitors to The Rocks

Christa Billich and husband Charles Billich at the new bar in The Rocks.
Christa Billich and husband Charles Billich at the new bar in The Rocks. Photo: Supplied

As a 35-year veteran of The Rocks, Christa Billich thought she'd seen every peak and trough the historic Sydney precinct could dish up.

But the dearth of both domestic and international tourists, along with absent office workers, has devastated business in her neighbourhood.

Billich Gallery, which is located in the same building where Sailors Thai used to trade, lost another neighbour last year when Wild Ginger Dining announced it would "close its doors until the COVID-19 outbreak is settled".

The crisis has turned Billich to booze. In a good way. After running some trials, the art gallery opened a bar on the weekend.

"The Rocks received special licensing laws to enable the hard-hit businesses to attract clientele in a different and more European way," Billich says.

As the first cab off the rank, the gallery is trying to use Billich Champagne Bar to promote neighbouring businesses.

Customers can order from the food menu of some neighbouring restaurants and cafes, with the number of options set to expand in coming weeks.

They are also offering work for hard-hit musicians. "We had a Russian pianist and an opera singer in here for one of our trials," she says.

Last week The Rocks was the location of a trial of the state government's $500 million Dine & Discover program, and while it's encouraging news, Billich says some businesses in the area remain closed.

 "We had a balcony and have done plenty of events for exhibition, and while I've never run a bar, I've been in many," she says.

Open Fri-Sun 12pm-8pm.

106 George Street, The Rocks