Lord of the Lounge: Brisbane’s Elie Moubarak on his decade in the bar biz and latest offering Laruche
Bartender magazine and 4bars.com.au decided to catch up with Elie Moubarak the man behind Brisbane’s successful West End cocktail joint Lychee Lounge and the new Fortitude Valley swank pad Laruche. Here’s what Elie had to say:
SM: How did you get first get involved in the hospitality industry?
EM: “Like most people I used it as a channel to get myself through university, but funnily enough I really did and still do get a kick out of hospitality. It’s not all merry, but you really do appreciate the amount of work and time that goes into the management and general operation of a venue.”
SM: When did you open Lychee Lounge?
EM: “I have had Lychee Lounge for about 10 years.”
SM: Did Lychee take off straight away or did it take some time to win over the West End locals?
EM: “If I can remember correctly it did quite well from the start, but that doesn’t mean it’s always been travelling at that intensity. Business certainly ebbs and flows, and we definitely did have some difficult times. From my experience, I believe that its easier to attract a certain type of patron and business when you first open a business, as customers are always wide eyed and ready for something new, but the real challenge is keeping the desired clientele coming back, and ultimately having a good percent of your weekly business from this repeat clientele. A few factors that we always look at are geographic, demographic and psychographic. The beauty about this industry is that it’s so dynamic. “
“Decadence heavily stems from the art nouveau era. This design movement drew inspiration from nature, influenced by the organic lines of all things natural.”
SM: When did you start working on Laruche and how long did it take to come to completion?
EM: “A second venue has been on the drawing board for a while prior to Laruche, so in reality research has and probably will never stop. From concept, design, build and all the documentation, about 2.5 years to finish Laruche.”
SM: How does your latest offering differ from Lychee Lounge?
EM: “Apart from the décor being very different, West End and the Valley are two completely different precincts. The service at Lychee Lounge is very sit-down/table driven, thus a greater emphasis on food and higher end drinks is evident. At Laruche, however, the bar has a greater emphasis on bar staff and its working dynamic as it handles more of the one to one customer interaction. Also, as the Valley has a more party atmosphere, we are capable of putting a little more emphasis on our music offering. A more stringent door policy is implemented in the Valley. There are many subtle differences such as cocktail list, food, function packages etc.”
SM: Were there some lessons that you learnt from Lychee that you were able to apply to Laruche?
EM: “I suppose, being in this industry, you’re forever learning, tweaking and putting into practice, so I guess most definitely. The many aspects of operations, staffing, what works and doesn’t work with regards to food and drink, how menus are presented, systems, the way both bar and kitchen function most efficiently, marketing, and PR etc.
SM: What was the biggest challenge you faced in trying to open Laruche?
EM: “The delays associated with Local Government and State Government bylaws and documentation.”
SM: Why do you think that Laruche will be successful?
EM: “People are very astute nowadays and they do appreciate a beautiful venue, good drinks, food, and most importantly a more personable and engaging attitude. We have really tried to push the boundary in all these areas, to create an experience like no other, an all en-compassing escapade.”
SM: ‘Decadence’ seems to be a popular theme in Brisbane bar design. Why do think this is?
EM: “I suppose decadence heavily stems from the art nouveau era. This design movement drew inspiration from nature, influenced by the organic lines of all things natural. I think such places do not date, and always exude a strong sense of comfort, originality, and escapism. These places have a strong cultural significance, and thus I think customers would rather be within this type of setting.”
SM: What has been your proudest moment in this industry?
EM: “Delivering this project. Pretty good feeling the first night it opened!”
SM: What excites you about the bar industry?
EM: “How dynamic the industry is and the people you meet along the way.”
SM: What positively bores you?
EM: “My father said to me once: ‘Commonsense isn’t very common’, so I guess the lack of commonsense.”
SM: What sets your venues apart from other Brisbane bars?
EM: “Both venues really possess a sense of style, comfort and quirkiness. I think this does cross over into the drinks and food offering. We do try to create a level playing field for everybody to enjoy, and really do focus on the relentless pursuit of good friendly service.”
SM: Where to next? Are there plans for more venues in the future?
EM: “I have had this crazy idea for the last year and a half, about doing a venue overseas. Not sure yet, but would love to create something in Japan or maybe New Zealand…”