City institution the Hardware Societe is closing down its original cafe

The Hardware Societe in Hardware Lane pictured in 2010.
The Hardware Societe in Hardware Lane pictured in 2010.  Photo: Eddie Jim

The original Hardware Societe, one of Melbourne CBD's most popular cafes, is closing indefinitely. The announcement, made via Instagram by owner Di Keser, shines a light on the struggle being faced by hospitality businesses.

Keser did not pull any punches, stating, "today our sales were $391.00, that's about $10,000 less than an ordinary Monday. I am sure many other hospitality businesses are suffering the same fate and are just too embarrassed to put it out there."

The original cafe in Hardware Lane opened almost 12 years ago, drawing enormous queues and an evangelical following for its agenda of elevating brunch far beyond eggs on toast. Instead, it was lobster benedict and fried brioche with berries and meringue with chantilly cream.

The success story was written about in a book. In 2019, the Keser's opened an even bigger and bolder version of the cafe in Katherine Place. The latter will remain open.

The Katherine Place  Hardware Societie which opened in 2019 will remain open.

The Katherine Place Hardware Societe which opened in 2019 will remain open. Photo: Eddie Jim

Keser says she hopes that the decision will start a necessary dialogue about the true state of the CBD.

"We need assurances that Jobkeeper is not going to desert us, and where is the compensation for this lockdown?"

Keser also says that while she has observed some recovery of the nighttime economy, with people being willing to venture into the city to visit restaurants, there is no daytime economy at all without students, tourists and office workers. 

"We need the City of Melbourne to petition the state and federal government for the help that we need."

The story is evidence of the struggle being faced by city businesses. As Keser's Instagram post continues "We have endured the loss of tourists, international students and office workers. Lockdown 3.0 has been the last straw."