Wine halls have a dubious history, often catering for the lost souls of the community, the alcoholics, gamblers and prostitutes. Darebin had a number of wine halls, although not all of them was necessarily a “dive”. The usual fare of wine halls was cheap Australian wine and fortified spirits such as port, sherry and madeira.
Miss H. A. Foley opened her establishment in 1895 at 608 High Street, Thornbury, on the east side of the road between Mansfield and Dundas Streets. She was replaced by Mrs M. Watson in 1899 and by the start of the First World War it was operating under R. Fruish. At around this time the properties in High Street were renumbered and the wine hall became 812 – 814 High Street.
In 1914 Italian immigrant Frank Lanteri who had married a second generation local Italian Marietta Napoli, became the new owner and he was to remain there until it closed in 1962. Lanteri's two children Nita and Frank junior grew up and helped out in the business.
In the 1930s the wine hall was described as a dark place with a bar running down one length of the wall and a number of old church pews at the back of the room. Drunks would stagger out of the building, stumbling in the gutters and clutching their bottle of sherry or port in a brown paper bag.
The building was later rebuilt and operated as a bank for many years.
Sands and McDougall’s Melbourne and Suburban Directory 1864- 1974. [Microfiche]. (1974). Melbourne, Australia: Sands & McDougall.