The Duarte brothers were all geared to open a new venture in the heart of Wollongong when the latest lockdown hit, but instead of holding off they thought "stuff it" let's just open anyway.
Sonny's Wine Shop in Globe Lane is the newest addition for the duo behind popular Italian-inspired eateries Kneading Ruby and Restaurant Santino, and stocks an extensive range of wines, craft beer and craft spirits.
"After the first lockdown and the shift of a lot of consumers drinking at home and not being able to go out and dine we just thought 'we've got something here to offer'," Fred told the Mercury.
"Let's get the doors open and see what happens."
Their other ventures are both still operating for takeaway meals and packages, and are in walking distance of the new beverage cellar (Santino is next door).
So far natural and organic wines have been a favourite with customers.
"We're curated wines from mainly our restaurant suppliers, so they're going to generally be wines that you can't find in your major retailers and we've focused on craft beers that are predominantly local," Fred said.
The concept for their boutique store, he said, was to invite people in to taste and talk about their range from Australia to Austria, Uruguay to Greece, all displayed in a temperature controlled room.
The tastings may not be available just yet but patrons can still make a purchase online or walk-in - with takeaway panini's available on Saturdays.
"The mission plan behind Sonny's was to get the bottle shop as interactive as possible and educational - so inviting wine and spirits suppliers down for educational classes and things like that," Kevin said.
"We're kinda itching for that to all happen."
His brother Fred added, "It's just not boxes of booze standing around everywhere it's very much ... an experience."
Wollongong City Council recently revealed Globe Lane would be the first CBD precinct to be given a small makeover as part of a strategy to revitalise the Crown Street Mall and a ploy to entice people back to the city centre.
Artists are being commissioned to create an oversized illuminated artwork directing people to the space, as well design other creative structures including seating for other parts of the lane, to give the space a special identity - like laneways are to Melbourne.
"With a bit of revitalisation, I think a little Melbourne vibe could be really cool," said Kevin.
"It's a great step forward for businesses in Globe Lane to get some revitalisation to the place and I think that will essentially bring more business."
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