City’s gentle evolution

Norfolk Hotel owner Gary Gosatti.
Norfolk Hotel owner Gary Gosatti.

But perhaps we can’t see its evolution because we’ve grown up with it. As we’ve changed so has the city and who knows which changes came first?

Norfolk Hotel business owner Gary Gosatti says many guests would believe the hotel’s courtyard area which was completed in 2001 has always been there.

But the hotel, a licensed premises since the late 1800s, has evolved so organically it has put down deep roots in the community and in doing so developed an understanding of this unique place.

Some might remember it as Oddfellows. It became the Norfolk Hotel in 1985 and, in a nod to the past, has recently reopened its downstairs bar under the new (or old) name The Odd Fellow.

Mr Gosatti himself says he’s grown up with Fremantle, having started working at the old Freemason’s Hotel, now the Sail and Anchor, before taking up the opportunity at the Norfolk in 1989.

At first he just worked here. But slowly Fremantle got under his skin and now he lives in the city too.

‘I never thought I’d be engaged with the business or with Fremantle for so long,’ he said.

‘But there’s something very unique about the fabric of Fremantle.

‘Much of it is driven by the social aspect of Fremantle, the way it’s been preserved as a village rather than a town.’

There certainly is a lively social and hospitality scene in town, particularly along South Terrace, but Mr Gosatti doesn’t lament the competition at all. Fremantle should be able to cater to everyone, he says from breakfast to late night shenanigans.

The problems that come with such a busy night-time scene, long taxi rank queues and a perception of lack of public safety, are all fixable.

‘I think people have found their way through and around the difficulty of public transport but that doesn’t mean that its OK,’ he said of the City’s management of late night taxi woes.

‘It’s not fair to the public to not address it.’

But that influx of people improves the safety of the City.

‘To me Fremantle feels like a safe city,’ he says.

‘If I reflect back to the days of 1984 that was more challenging, we didn’t have the density of businesses so empty streets, poorly lit, there was a sense of risk.’

And while there have been tough times for business, in some ways Fremantle has been insulated from the worst effects felt by other entertainment precincts like Northbridge and Subiaco.

‘The community is very much a part of Fremantle, we are incredibly protective of our culture.

‘I think Fremantle feels like a place that belongs to the people that’s what makes it so compelling.

‘Even while we are seeing generational change the generations have embraced the culture, it won’t change.’