Two years after it moved into grandiose premises in Lygon Street, Brunetti’s has still not installed toilets for customers – despite a flood of complaints.
Originally published through the Age
It pours thousands of coffees every day but, almost two years after a flood of complaints about its lack of toilets, a Carlton institution still lacks somewhere for customers to express themselves.
And Melbourne City Council says that, despite the complaints from the community, there is little it can do.
But the long wait to go to the toilet at Brunetti appears almost over, with the cafe promising to open customer facilities soon.
Brunetti cafe has been in Carlton since 1974 and, in early 2013, settled into its grandiose new Lygon Street coffee palace.
The cafe chain splashed out millions on the cafe’s interior, with its soaring ceilings and theatrical marble mosaics.
But management did not provide toilets, despite the 400-seat cafe serving an estimated 4000 coffees a day.
While Brunetti maintains its pristine condition, the small public toilets in the Lygon Court shopping centre the cafe sits in have been left to provide all facilities for patrons.
North Carlton resident Petra Stock recently complained to the city council about the lack of facilities. On her most recent visit, the toilets had proved completely inadequate, she said. “The toilets are always disgusting. The baby change rooms are always locked. We don’t go any more.”
The council told Ms Stock that, despite other complaints, Brunetti had broken no laws by not providing toilet facilities, because they were located elsewhere within the shopping centre.
Retail leasing expert Zelman Ainsworth, from CBRE, said well-known brands such as Brunetti had to be careful to ensure they provided high-quality service to customers. “The reason luxury brands are luxury brands is the level of high-quality service they provide to their customers,” he said.
In mid-2013, a Brunetti’s customer told The Age his young daughter had to urinate in a laneway at 11.30am on a Sunday, after discovering the Lygon Court toilets were locked.
Brunetti co-owner Yuri Angele said at the time that “beautiful” marble toilets would be installed in the venue, most likely within five months.
It has taken significantly longer, but on Monday the cafe’s Fabio Angele said its new toilets would be finished “in about two weeks”.
“We want to have a big opening. Because everyone’s made such a big deal out of it, we want to make a big deal about it too,” Mr Angele said.
“We’ve really gone out of our way this time. Believe me, they’ll be really something to talk about. We’d always planned to do them, but [we prioritised other building works]. In hindsight, we should have done it first.”
The Lygon Court shopping centre did not respond to questions.