Operator Profile: Marco and Emily Nunes

Marco and Emily Nunes - just part of the dynamic team that got Canvas Bar up and running.

Interview by Edward Washington

Bartender recently took some time out to chat to Marco and Emily Nunes (Canvas Bar, Brisbane). Along with Bonnie Shearston and Tom Sanceau these creative collaborators have launched one of the most successful Brisbane tippling spots that the city has ever seen. With only a few minutes in their busy day we asked a few questions to get an insight into just how they run a successful bar business.


What’s the attraction of the bar business for you both?

“To be able to do something we’re passionate about and can work together on.  The pace of the bar business suits us perfectly [it’s] a mixture of structure and surprises where no week is quite the same.”

How have you evolved as business operators over the years?

“We have previously worked together on our own bar training/consultancy/events business but when the opportunity presented itself to open Canvas with our business partners Bonnie Shearston and Tom Sanceau we jumped at it and have never looked back!

Coming up to Canvas’ first birthday I think all four of us will look back and say we have learnt a huge amount in this first year of operation and no doubt this will continue.”

What mistakes taught you the biggest lessons?

“Probably trying to take too much on at once, we’ve learnt that it’s important to stay focused and realistic about what is achievable in order to have the time and energy to continue to be inspired by what you’re doing.”

How do you balance your work ethic with the social side of your business?

“Having a child helps keep the boundaries in place that’s for sure!  Our ethos is to always try to stay open and respectful, have fun while managing our responsibilities.”

Never forget this is a customer service industry and your focus must be about creating a positive experience for all of your guests.” Emily Nunes, Canvas Bar

How do you continually develop your creative ideas?

“Marco in particular is passionate about all things bar related so keeps his finger firmly on the industry pulse!  We feel the trick is to stay open minded, know what is achievable and don’t be afraid to take risks.”

Where do you draw your inspiration from for food and drink?

“Our drink inspiration comes mainly from European and American culture – taking elements from the old world which have stood the test of time and combining these with more modern flavours and techniques. Our food definitely has a rustic European flavour with probably more of a Spanish focus at present.”

What excites you about the Brisbane bar industry?

“The introduction of the small bar licence has enabled smaller, more intimate and unique venues to pop up throughout the city and suburbs.  The reception these new venues has received is evidence of how happy the locals are to have more of these style bars around and the industry is sure to continue booming in what remains the fastest growing city in Australia.”

Do you have any concerns about the future of the Brisbane bar industry?

“Lack of staff is definitely an issue as most experienced bartenders either move on to other careers or head interstate and overseas if they continue bartending.  Hopefully as the industry here grows there will be more to entice good staff to stick around and help foster Brisbane’s bar culture!”

Where do you both see yourself in 5 years?

“Well we’ve been in Brisbane for five years now and are well on our way to establishing our roots here so hopefully we will expand our operations and continue to be a part of the Brisbane small bar revolution!”

What’s the best thing about owning your own bar?

“To be able to go to a bar you really enjoy being at and seeing other people really feeling it – sometimes the right mixture of music, product, atmosphere and people can create a little bit of magic.”

And the worst?

“It is a lot of hard work but that is something we enjoy so not really a ‘worst’!  But this is definitely the more difficult aspect at times.”

Are there any local or international bar operators that you admire? If so why?

“We’ve been inspired by many people across the years and admire anyone who can make a successful venture and have fun doing it.”

How important are staff in operating a successful business?

“Finding the right people to represent the venue is always a high priority for us.  Having staff with the right attitude and passion counts for as much as, if not more than, their skills and knowledge. It’s much easier to train someone’s knowledge and skills set than it is to change someone’s attitude.”

How much input do your staff have in your business?

“A lot, we work closely with and value the contribution of our staff.  It is important to us that our staff feel that they are able to have input into Canvas in order to remain inspired and challenged.”

What advice would you give young bartenders who want to open their own bar one day?

“Do it!  It’s hard work but definitely achievable and rewarding.”

Top tips for running a successful bar business?

  1. Work with the right people; staff, landlord, suppliers.
  2. Discipline and focus.
  3. Research!
  4. Have fun

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