You know summer is near when Arbory Afloat starts kicking again. Every year the whopping Yarra River bar is completely rebuilt and reopens with a fresh look inspired by a balmy international spot.

In the past we’ve seen the 69-metre-long pontoon kitted out to evoke Palm Springs, the French Riviera and Italy’s Cinque Terre region. Last year’s Miami Vice theme even included a little pink-and-aqua pool on the upper deck.

This year, in light of the current mood, the team is aiming for something simpler and more relatable: “beach house”. “We all love it, it’s familiar and it’s got so many family memories,” Arbory’s marketing director Georgie Larkins tells Broadsheet. “That’s what we want to conjure, and evoke that spirit.”

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Naturally, the pool has been left in place. But the two bars and undercover dining area have been smartly refitted with wicker furniture, pattern-heavy upholstery, lime accents and plenty of greenery ahead of the planned opening date, Monday October 26. Arbory Bar and Eatery, Afloat’s on-shore, year-round counterpart, will also reopen then.

This is, of course, dependent on the government’s road map for reopening proceeding without hiccups. Under the plan, bars may reopen from October 26 with limits on patron density – provided that during the previous 14 days there are fewer than five daily cases of Covid-19 across the state, and fewer than five from an “unknown source”.

“We’re actually feeling pretty confident,” Larkins says. She says that given the scope of the annual rebuild, the decision had to be made now. “That’s a lot of work and requires a lot of planning. We unfortunately can’t make the decision a week out to reopen.”

With the new theme comes a renewed focus on local art, performance, music and culture. For the first time the venue is planning sit-down ticketed events, including a Spring Racing Carnival party with live coverage from Flemington, on-site bookies and even the bar’s own Fashions on the Field competition.

“We’re excited and optimistic about working again, Larkins says. “And bringing some life back to the city and providing an escape from the city, in the heart of the city, as well.”

Arbory Bar and Eatery and Arbory Afloat Beach House plan to reopen for bookings and walk-ins on Monday 26 October, from 11am to 1am daily.