Mike Enright: Ivy, Group Bars Manager

Mike Enright

This month Bartender magazine took some time out to catch up with Mike Enright, Group Bars manager at Ivy and one of the most genuine blokes you could hope to meet. When he isn’t down at Ivy holding the reigns for the many bars he looks after you could find him at the Lord Dudley sipping on a Grey Hound cocktail or maybe knocking up some ‘Beer can Chicken’ at home (his favourite dish to cook). Mike is a true stalwart figure in the Australia bar scene so it was an absolute pleasure to visit him down at Ivy and find out a little bit about his road to his current role.

“It is imperative to have a clear understanding of the venue and it’s demographic so that you can react to changes.”

After making the move from England to the Antipodes in 1999 Mike hit the ground running as bar manager of the Blue Room, Sydney. At the time this was the cocktail bar on the Australian scene and he worked with some well known names that are still around like Jason Crawley and Naren Young. From there it has been a steady and constant rise to where his current post at ivy and it seems as though the sky is the limit for Mr Enright so we though we’d better catch him while we could and find out about his journey.


How did you get started in the UK bar industry?

Well, I managed pubs for 5 years in North West England before moving onto cocktail bars. I worked at Planet Hollywood in Leicester square to start with and Navajo jo’s (Tequila bar) in Covent Garden.

When and how did you first get involved in the Australian bar industry?

I moved to Australia in 1999 and my first cocktail bar position was at the ‘Grand Pacific Blue Room’. It was one of the best cocktail bars in Sydney at the time and team was awesome. We used to tear it up and over the time I worked there I was lucky enough to work with a wide range of bartenders – all as good as the next.

Did you ever want to work in another industry?

Funny that you ask! I actually went to University to get out of Managing pubs and change my career path. Although, when I completed my degree in Marketing and Design and I headed straight back to London to work in Cocktails bars!

How long have you been with the Merivale Group?

I have been working with the Merivale Group for nearly 3 years and my role has grown considerably since starting.

What was your first role with Merivale and how have you progressed through the company?

My first role was as Ivy lounge bar manager and training manager. My role quickly progressed onto Bars Manager of Ivy and finally the position which I have now of Group bars Manager.

Your current role is Group Bars Manager – can you tell me a little bit about your day to day role.

It has become quite a varied role which is fantastic. M y main focus is on beverage selection, supplier relationships, cocktail menus and design, business reports, the implementation and creation of drinks programs, consistency of drinks and service, recruitment, creation of  innovative drink concepts, new venue set up and lots of meetings to ensure that everyone within the group is kept up to speed with any new developments.

How important is it for you to collaborate with your team of Managers when overseeing such a large operation as you do?

It’s imperative for a business this size to be successful. The key to that is to have a great, ongoing relationship with fellow colleagues. Also, it is imperative to have a clear understanding of the venue and it’s demographic so that you can react to changes and stay on top of your clients needs.

What has been the most challenging aspect of working for such a diverse group?

Always creating new innovative ideas can be challenging, but it drives creative thinking.  And having the ability to travel and making great contacts both in Australia and overseas helps, inspires and motivates me

And what is the most satisfying aspect of working for a diverse group?

The style of venues, design, quality and success that we get to take part in is rewarding, and having great and unforgettable parties – The Merivale Group, and Justin don’t fall shy in this area.

After being with Merivale for such a long period of time what challenge gets you out of bed each morning?

It’s a very exciting company with an emphasis on design and is forever evolving so that is a wonderful thing to be part of. There is a terrific creative energy that I’ve never experienced within any other hospitality company and it drives me everyday as well as the other staff who work here.

What have been some of your most memorable experiences working in the industry?

New Orleans, ‘Tales of the Cocktail’ in July 2010 was the most recent experience that I had. The opening night of Pool Club at Ivy with all the great people attending was sensational and I’ve met an amazing array of people and customers in the industry, it all helps.

Have you had any real mentors of the course of your career in Hospitality?

I worked with Jason Crawley in London at Planet Hollywood so he was my mentor, and he is a terrific bloke. Also Mr Wayne Collins from mixxit in the UK. Wayne has a wealth of knowledge and doesn’t mind sharing it which is great – knowledge needs to be shared.

Who are some up and coming Bar Manager that you work with – what makes them stand out?

The Merivale Group has a very strong Management team and structure across all venues so it’s hard for me to single one or two out, so I would say the team is a great asset to the Group.

What is it that you love about the bar industry?

You work alongside some characters as well as serve them. Simple.

Does anything grind your gears about the bar industry?

Bars that win awards that don’t have any customers in them….or trainspotters.

Do you have any advice for a budding bar(s) managers on how to further their career?

Be patient and don’t push yourself too hard, just get the job done to your best of ability and importantly you must have an open mind to change, it’ll happen eventually so enjoy the journey.

What are some positive industry developments you have seen over the years?

The bartender/ waiter is now deemed as a profession not just a second job by the consumer which is great recognition for the industry. A lot has changed in the last 20 years which is nice to see.

What do you do outside of the industry to stay sane?

Relax in a sauna or swim at Icebergs. I do boxing, love to cook and will walk the dog when ever I can, it clears my head and relaxes me.


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