Dancing Dog’s revival by Mamma Chen’s

The site of the former Dancing Dog Cafe at 42a Albert Street, Footscray. (Benjamin Millar)

Goya Dmytryshchak

Saved from the clutches of developers, the former Dancing Dog Cafe site in Footscray may reopen as a live music venue operated by a local duo.

Emily Chen and mother Linda Chen, trading as Mamma Chen’s, have lodged plans with Maribyrnong council to complete an interior fit-out and change the use of the 111-year-old building at 42A Albert Street from a licensed cafe into a live music venue.

The proposal includes ground floor renovations to the music hall and guest hall areas and artist studios for rent upstairs.

Emily told Star Weekly the initial proposed hours of operation were Fridays 4pm-1am, Saturdays 1pm-1am and Sundays 1pm-11pm.

“We’ve applied to open Friday, Saturday and Sunday to start with. The studios upstairs would be open to the artists 24/7.

“Hopefully we can extend the trading hours to be seven days in the future, but for now it’ll just be Friday to Sunday.”

The iconic cafe closed its doors in March last year, after 17 years of trading.

When the building went up for sale in 2015, the community started a crowd-funding campaign to help buy the heritage-listed site, raising nearly $60,000.

The building was sold to an investor for $1.6 million, who kept the lease arrangements.

Emily posted on social media that they had signed a lease for the building and hoped to gain council and community support to open a live music venue.

“I’ve been playing bands around Melbourne for the past 14 years and my mum has been a huge supporter of local music since I was just a little ‘un,” they wrote in the post, shared with consent.

“We understand that there may be concern about sound travelling etc so we’d love to chat to the community to explain our plans and hopefully alleviate any concern.”

Emily said the plans included professional acoustic treatment to avoid sound carrying out to neighbouring houses and businesses and making the venue more accessible with inclusion of an electronic lift platform to the stage, widened doorways and ramps for wheelchair accessibility, and installation of an accessible toilet.

Built in 1909 as The United Friendly Societies Dispensary, the Edwardian Freestyle building is listed in the Victorian Heritage Database as being significant as “the region’s most prominent reminder of the friendly societies and their dispensaries which, when it was built, were invaluable to working men and women in the region to alleviate the affects of long hard working days among noxious industries and provide some guarantee against sickness, injury and consequent destitution”.

Its creation involved some of the area’s prominent pioneers and personalities and it was claimed at the time of opening as “absolutely the finest specimen of a modern dispensary building to be found in or around Melbourne”, the database states.