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Over its 140-year history, thousands of bands have worked the Esplanade Hotel, and countless beers spilled. The grand St Kilda venue came close to being shut down a few times, and was nearly knocked down in the 1990s to make way for apartments. Protesters saw off those plans.

After nearly three years in enforced hibernation, during which time more than $15 million was reportedly injected into updating the site, the beloved venue opened its doors once more in late November and is building towards a seven-day-week entertainment programme.

On Tuesday, special guests from the city’s creative option leaders and thinkers, media and music business enjoyed an exclusive first look at the full scale of its refurbishment (12 bars, two restaurants, three stages, five floors, three kitchens) and mixed it up for a half-day of city-wide panel discussions and special keynote presentation, all facilitated by Triple M presenter and author Jane Gazzo.

Jane Gazzo
Jane Gazzo

TIO was on hand as professionals delved into Melbourne’s cultural trends and key priorities for the year ahead.

Timing is everything, and the Melbourne Insights’ mini pow-wow unfolded just two weeks after the re-election of the creatives-friendly Labor government, under state premier Daniel Andrews, while Sydney hosted second annual Global Cities After Dark gathering, where the lock-out city set the agenda for its own night time economy.