Hidden inside an old theatre near the back beach, the doors of Williamstown Italian Social Club will open for this month’s Art & Industry Festival secret bar tour.
The building at 30 Garden Street opened as the Empress Open-Air Pavilion in 1907 and later became a roller skating rink and table tennis centre.
Two hundred families from the Italian club banded together in the 1970s to buy the building.
Club president Carlo Abate, whose late father was one of the founding members, said the historic building had been saved from development.
“That’s where all the Italians from Williamstown, Yarraville, Newport [went],” he said. “They all had this place, this club.
“Most of these people are now in their 80s and 90s or deceased, so we’re trying to open it up to the next generation to keep it going.”
It is one of six venues on the secret bar tour, opening to the public on Friday, November 23 and Saturday, November 24 from 6pm until late.
The club will also hold a free open day on Sunday, November 18 from noon to 6pm, with bocce, live music, and nonna’s homemade pasta dishes and drinks for sale.
‘Tastes of Italy’ sessions, where people can learn to cook and eat pasta from different regions, will be held at 1pm, 3pm and 5pm for $20. Bookings for the pasta tickets can be made at www.italiansocialclub.eventbrite.com
Other watering holes on the tour are Favor & Grace in Laverton, Hopheads in Altona, Two Birds Brewing in Spotswood, Leroys in Newport and Pirates Tavern in Williamstown.
The Art & Industry Festival runs from November 16-25 and celebrates the western suburbs’ industrial heritage.