Commercial Road in the early eighties was a barren windswept stretch with only the Prahran Market holding it together. Shops were empty and it was desolate. Then something happened. A gay bookshop called The Beat, which was in nearby Greville Street closed and reopened in Commercial Road. Then The Exchange Hotel was renovated and reopened as a gay hotel.
By the the late eighties Commercial Road had become the premium gay area and while Oxford Street in Sydney was referred to as the Gay Mile, our Commercial Rd, somewhat cruelly, was dubbed the Gay Metre. Along with gay bars, bookshops, cafes and restaurants, it was a place with atmosphere. Too much atmosphere at times.
As is often the case, gays started it and straight businesses pick it up. Rents rose, as they did in Oxford Street too, and straight nightclubs opened in the area, again as they did in Oxford Street. Slowly gay businesses closed or moved locations and while there is still a significant gay feel to Commercial Road, it is not what it was.
For us now, it is just our local shops for local people. It is where we get off the tram or bus to go shopping. We never really go to any of the remaining gay cafes. A Greek/Australian cafe in Pran Central or Mojitos are our brunch places of choice.