‘The Gresham trades 20 hours a day’: A day in the life running the Bar of the Year

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Ryan Lane has the enviable task of running things at The Gresham, the Brisbane bar with a big selection of whiskey, and two time winner of the Bar of the Year category at the Bartender Magazine Australian Bar Awards.

The Gresham trades from the morning all the way up until, well, the early morning, a solid 20 hours of trade in all. Add to that an ever rotating selection of beers on tap, and a comprehensive selection of hard to find whiskeys, and it adds up to a long day.

Below, lightly edited for clarity, Lane describes a typical day in the life of a bar manager running one of our Australia’s premier drinking dens.

Wake up: 7am, my wife Renee wakes up early to head off to work. We’ve got polished wooden floors, she only wears heels, and she doesn’t exactly have the grace of a ballet dancer when walking down the hall to leave. Add to that my two kids, growling for me to spoon them (yes, miniature Dachshunds are the best little spoons ever!).

8am: Out the door to battle the busy queue of pissed off office workers at the bus stop — my god they hate their jobs!

8:30am: I swing past the 7-11 near work and pick up my “Crack Milk” (Ice Break — it’s an addiction, OK? I’m working on it) and roll around the corner into the office.

9am: Go over the previous night’s figures and report. Invoicing and reconciliation, wages, petty cash etc, all the fun stuff.

11am: Researching beers, pricing and ordering. Having six taps that we entirely own, plus a great little craft beer following, I like to keep the taps churning over with new beers each week. I’ll work on new menus (as we change ours roughly every quarter).

12pm: I go on the hunt for new and hard-to-get whiskies for the back bar. As we’re limited for space, I like to rotate interesting drams through the back bar much the same as I do with the taps. Recent ones being a massive vertical of Glendronach Single Casks (’89,’90, 92,93,94,95,96, 02, 03, 04), eight SKUs of Kilchoman, SMWS bottlings, etc. Hunt through private whisky groups for some unicorns.

1pm-3pm: Meetings with reps to discuss opportunities for not only Gresham, but other venues throughout our group (Heya Bar, Libertine, Popolo Kitchen & Bar). Troll through realcommercial.com for a bit, see if there’s anything new worth checking out. Go through quotes and designs for some work we’re having done here at the bar.

3pm: This is usually the start of our first slamming, bar-wise (we get hit 9-11am as we do coffee happy hour, and lunch times are very busy also). Having a venue that’s open 20 hours a day is pretty nuts but hey, like AB (Andrew Baturo, one of our owners) says, “there’s a 100% chance you won’t have business if you’re closed.”

5pm: *Grabs ankles.* This is where we fill up for the first time of the day. Given our location, all the office blocks around us empty out, and head straight into us for a cheeky bevy after work. Most days this will be anywhere up to 100pax (we’re licensed for 140). This will hang on to around the 7-8pm mark.

8pm-9pm: Prep time — while there’s a chance to. There’s usually a nice grace period between the after-work crowd, and the post-dinner crowd for us here, so it’s smash out the prep time. Pre batched cocktails, syrups, shrubs and especially our large cocktail and whiskey cubes have to get popped and refilled as we can go through anywhere up to a full plastic laundry tubs worth in a night — roughly 200 or so.

9-10pm: Here comes the after dinner crowd! Usually groups of 6-12 corporate lads that have just nailed a 500gm rib down the road, then decide to wow their mates and clients with a few whiskies. This is where the spend per head becomes ridiculous — ridiculously awesome. “10 double Pappy 23’s thanks mate!”

“You got it, buddy!”

12pm-3am: Here we go again. As 99% of the venues in the Brisbane CBD shut at midnight, we start to get all of the fellow hospo workers roll through for an after-work smash up. (I’ll put on 80’s power ballads much to Jamie Fleming’s dismay). Time for a sing-a-long — fuck I love this bar.

3:30am: Usually done with tills, pack down and clean by now, I’ll have a cheeky bevy with the crew for that essential post-shift debrief and go over the night’s events, etc.

4am: It’s home time. I try to ninja in the door to not wake the wife, as she’ll need to be up in three hours for work, but unfortunately the “kids” will hear me a mile away and come running out, excited to see Dad. Winston will roll on his back, pee everywhere with excitement, then head back to bed with Clementine. I’ll try jump into bed but low and behold, the dogs have taken up my side, so I try slide into bed in the six inches of bed the dogs have left me, give Renee a kiss, and generally pass out like a log.