Operator Profile: The Local Taphouse gents


The Local Taphouse concept has been one of the instrumental players in bringing boutique beers to the the palates of the drinking public. We took a moment to sit down with team responsible..

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

Guy: I love hospitality. I love it when people have a great time at our place. I love being able to provide someone with a great experience. Often the most memorable parts of life and the way we meet people and share good times is at a bar having a couple of drinks.

Steve: I spent most of my twenties based in Dublin, Ireland, and completely fell in love everything about a true ‘local’ pub. I loved their character, ambience, inclusiveness, warmth and friendliness and when I moved back to Australia, I couldn’t find bars with all those things close to where I lived.  In all our bar ventures, these are some of the must-have elements… along with craft beer.


Tell me a little about your business, The Local Taphouse?

SJ: The first Local Taphouse opened in 2008 on the same site as my first bar, The St Kilda Local, which Guy frequented often.  We became great friends so I pitched him the idea of us opening a specialist beer tavern inspired by our love of craft beer and the many specialist beer bars I had visited overseas. The Local Taphouse in Sydney opened a year after the original.

How do you manage the challenge of two bars in two states?

GG: It’s not easy! But we have a great team of people at both venues who really care about the place and about what they do. Our GMs at each venue are top notch and they have developed and now manage an excellent team. That’s really the key.

SJ: Great management in both venues.  It hasn’t always been the case in Sydney but we now have great venue managers who share our vision for the Taphouses – exceptional neighbourhood taverns specialising in craft beer, food, events and hospitality. We are based in Melbourne but maintain an apartment in Sydney and travel up there several days a month or as needed.

How have you evolved as business operators since the beginning?

GG: Absolutely! We’re always finding ways of doing things better. We know a heap more now than we did when we started and we’re continuously evolving. When we make mistakes, we try to learn from them and find ways of improving. Our systems and processes are quite different today to when we started out.

How do you continually develop your creative ideas?

GG: Steve is an ideas machine! But we also get inspiration from overseas and other places that are doing things really well. Whenever we eat out or have a drink somewhere, we’re always looking at what other people are doing well and what works and forever jotting down notes to ourselves. In terms of events and nights that we put on, our inspiration often comes from a lot of internal sources. Our various managers are encouraged to put forward ideas. One of our duty managers had the idea of Silent Cinema on the roof which has now been running successfully on Tuesday nights in Darlinghurst for almost a year.

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

GG: The beer part is easy – we’re just ridiculously passionate about it! We’re always on the websites and the forums and checking out what’s going on in beer. We’re friends with many of the brewers and we’re always keeping an eye on what’s coming up. In terms of food, our chefs are both fantastic. They try to cook with beer as an ingredient whenever they feel it enhances the dish.

SJ: I’m very partial to the simple food found in traditional taverns and cafes, especially in Europe. With regards to drink, my love of craft beer began when I lived in Los Angeles twelve years ago and I regularly visit the States which (surprisingly to some) is the world leader when it comes to craft beer.

What excites you about the Melbourne bar industry?

GG: It’s dynamic. There are so many great operators and great ideas that there’s always something happening and something inspiring to check out. Melbourne just has a great bar culture that the population has really embraced.

SJ: I love the relative legislative freedom that allow bar operators to be creative. There are so many great venues based on great ideas opening all the time and that keeps everyone on their toes. The challenge for most operators, us included, is to stay relevant in this environment.

Where do you both see yourself in five years? Anything exciting on the cards?

GG: We’re currently planning our 2013 installment of the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton which will be held from May 24-26 over 5 sessions. Last year we got a touch under 11,000 people (our first year) and we’re hoping to improve on that this year with some exciting new additions including a small selection of ‘rock star’ international breweries getting involved as well as an opportunity for punters to check out a whole bunch of breweries’ core rang at a new beer ‘bazar’ set up at the festival.

SJ: We have bold ambitions to grow but in a sustainable way. We could have opened more venues sooner but we didn’t want to do it prematurely and possibly see our existing venues suffer. We are now at the stage, however, where we have sufficient experience to try some new and ambitious ideas, all revolving around craft beer hospitality, and are approaching investors who can bring other skills to our plans.

What mistakes have taught you the most important lessons?

SJ: Do your homework before rushing in. The most valuable and important time is in the preparation and if that’s done well, the execution is made much easier.

How important have the events you hold been to the success of your bars?

SJ: We run more than 200 events in each venue each year but it’s hard to tell how important they are. We choose to do them because it keeps things interesting for us, our staff and our customers and means there’s always something to talk about.

Are there any local or international bar operators that you admire? Why?

GG: Yes! I love what the guys from Shady Pines and Baxter are doing to the Sydney scene (and they’re good people too – and have great beer!). Merivale seem to be able to take a venue that’s struggling, wave a magic wand and make it the busiest venue in Sydney! Overseas, I love what the Falling Rock in Denver does. Americans in general are so good at hospitality. In Melbourne they tend to be more single venue operators that do what they do really well and there are too many to name!

SJ: I have come across two operators in New York that I admire greatly and am still trying to figure out their secrets – Keith McNally and the Union Square Hospitality Group.  Everything they touch appears to turn to gold.

How important are staff in operating a successful business?

GG: The most important! They’re the face of the business and the people who have the power to give a customer an exceptional experience. Hiring genuine people who care is really what it’s all about.

SJ: Like most businesses, nothing is more important than staff. If we could clone some of our staff, I feel we could conquer the world (I say this as I stroke the white cat on my lap).  With great staff we can do great things together.  But great staff require great leadership and I think Guy and I have have got better at that over the years.

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

GG: Start small and build up from there. Anyone can do it! That’s the best and worst thing about this business. But you have to manage your finances right from the start or it can come back and bite you in the bum.


No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.