After almost 10 years of debate and division, Bondi Pavilion, the grand dame of Australia’s best known beach, is now closed for much needed restoration, and with the tender about to open for a mix of dining tenancies, a whole new era of beachfront dining is on the horizon for Sydney. 

“The building is almost 100 years old,” Waverley mayor Paula Masselos tells Broadsheet. “And for it to have survived so well in an [environmental] atmosphere that’s extremely hostile means she has great bones. But she is in need of a little bit of love and care.”

In May, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy union lifted a green ban placed on works to the art deco building, paving the way for its restoration. The ban was put in place in 2016 after passionate community opposition to the proposed designs, with many locals, including actors Jack Thompson and Michael Caton, wanting the space to remain a community and cultural hub rather than a development favouring commercial and retail facilities. For many, given the Pavilion’s rich history and prime location overlooking the golden sands of Bondi, the decision was hugely important.

The union says the new design by architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer (TZG) provides adequate protection, with a strong focus on sustainability and respect for the building’s heritage. It should take 18 months or so to complete.

The restoration, to be completed by Buildcorp, will integrate outdoor and indoor spaces, creating a flow from the beachfront through to the parklands behind the Pavilion and onto Campbell Parade. 

The roof’s original cordova pattern is to be restored, and the courtyard will be landscaped, with updated spaces for events and day-to-day community use. A new tourist information centre and box office will be added, plus a spacious new art gallery, a revamped theatre and a community radio station. Three flexible cultural spaces will comprise the Bondi Story Room, celebrating the area’s history, and the pottery studio will get an upgrade, including a second kiln.

The existing floor mosaic by Yolngu Elder and Warramiri Tribal Chief Terry Yumbulul will be restored and maintained, and a new Indigenous public artwork has been commissioned. There’s also hope for a five-star green rating through the incorporation of sustainable initiatives, including “green leases” and an open-topped atrium providing natural ventilation.

Now Waverley Council is on the hunt for a range of tenants, from cafes to high-end restaurants, for the Pavilion’s southern end.

“We want to attract a provider who is used to operating in a heritage building and meets the diversity of the people who live in Bondi,” says Masselos. “They will need to cater to locals who are down for their morning exercise and want to grab a quick coffee, to people who have travelled to Bondi for a long lunch overlooking the famous beach, through to dinner and drinks at night.”

She says the Pavilion gets more than one million visitors each year and the council wants to make sure there will be a number of different price points to allow everyone to enjoy the facilities.   “The Pavilion is iconic. Bondi Beach is iconic. And this is an opportunity to have something really special down there. I’m sure we will have a lot of people interested in the tender and interested in contributing to the vibrancy of the dining scene in Bondi,” says the mayor.

Bondi Pavilion is now closed. The stage 1 of the tender for the southern end of the Pavilion tenancy will be released early July More details here. The tender process ends on August 12.