However people still tried to make the best of it, as some of the city’s laneways were transformed into temporary al fresco dining spots as part of the City of Melbourne’s Street Feasts initiative.
“It’s fabulous, we got such a surprise when we came down the street,” said Julie Hunt from Strathmore, who was dining under the canopy outside Pellegrini’s.
Despite the bad news on Thursday, Ms Hunt said there was a bit of optimism in the air that things would improve in 2021.
“I don’t think 2020 was the best year we’ve had,” she said. “I’m glad to see the end of it and just looking forward to 2021 – fingers crossed.”
Pellegrini’s owner David Malaspina said the Street Eats initiative was a big hit, with tables booked out through the night.
“I’ve got happy people on New Year’s Eve, so it’s actually great so far,” he said
“Most people know there are no fireworks, it’s a bit of a downer. But everyone’s happy, everyone’s smiling, having a great time.”
Across the rest of the city, revellers were few and far between at what would have been packed fireworks vantage spots in any other year.
The inner suburbs were quiet too, as partygoers seemingly took the advice to stay home or attend a venue.
Seagulls almost outnumbered people at St Kilda Beach, with the city’s most famous stretch of sand usually a magnet for picnickers on the last day of the year. Nearby pubs such as the Esplanade were doing a roaring trade.
At Edinburgh Gardens in Fitzroy North, a location known in the past for heaving parties, there was only a smattering of people on picnic blankets.
Police and security guards kept on eye on the one major gathering allowed in the park in the early evening: a big screen showing of the Paddington movie.
There was a small influx on to the city’s streets closer to midnight, as lines of masked punters snaked down footpaths outside nightclubs. Police maintained a strong presence, which included officers on horseback.
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Tom Cowie is a journalist at The Age covering general news.