Why bartenders are coming back to Brisbane


Story by Ryan Lane
Ryan is the general manager of The Gresham, Brisbane, and is a nominee for Bar Manager of the Year at the Bartender Magazine Australian Bar Awards this month.

Roughly four years ago now, I did what many a Brisbane bartender had done before me, and made the inevitable pilgrimage south, in search of greener pastures.

And boy did I find it!

I was like a pig in shit the day I landed in Melbourne. Such a beautiful city, with an incredible nightlife, unrestricted by ludicrous lock-out restrictions, amazing bartenders with a service style I’d not seen in the “hustle’n’bustle of Brisbane’s, then, “Churn’n’Burn” bars. I was in heaven…!


Life was great! And it was about to get a whole lot better.

One little phone call from my good mate and mentor, Matty Hewitt, and my life was turned upside down.

“Move back to Brisbane?!” I asked, “But I’m in Melbourne!” His rebuttal? The crazy idea of a CBD bar in an 140 year old building, full of whisky — I just could not refuse.

The toughest task was convincing my wife-to-be — and born and bred Melburnian — that Brisbane was worth moving to. (I still owe her so many favours.)

Brisbane was changing!

The churn’n’burn, 400-plus pax venues were making way for smaller, more intimate, service-driven venues. Specialty bars like Archive Beer Boutique, Cobbler, The Scratch, and Superwhatnot were in full swing, and alive with amazing whisky and craft beer offerings.

The land of XXXX Gold was reinvigorated with phenomenal craft beer breweries-cum-bars like Fortitude Brewing, Green Beacon Brewing, Newstead Brewing and All-In Brewing, pumping out more than the usual, run-of-the-mill smash-down lagers that Queenslanders were renowned for. And by god, they’re fan-bloody-tastic.

Since being home I’ve seen amazing live music venues open, like Brooklyn Standard and The Flying Cock. I’ve seen bars open that have scrumptious late night food offerings like Red Hook, Coppa, Papa Jack’s and of course Gresham’s sister bar, Heya. On my weekends off, I’ve taken trips to regional areas, and found amazing venues like Miss Moneypenny’s and Black Coffee Lyrics. Hell, I even went back to my old stomping ground, Townsville, and found Heritage Bar, a far cry from the venues I remember as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed 18 year old clubber all those moons ago.

The nod to the humble pub, which Brisbane has been lacking in over the past years, was turned on its head by guys like Statler & Waldorf, and The Flying Cock, all in some of Brisbane’s most old-school pub precincts.

I’ve seen friends (and long-time rivals), open their own joints as well, in Jahh Tiger, Cobbler and Statler & Waldorf, and gain national recognition in the process, and I couldn’t be happier for them!

But the greatest part of this story? The public is coming along for the ride! No longer is Queensland the 6 o’clock swill of Bundy and XXXX. People are taking to these venues with such an open mind, looking for the next evolution of enjoying their night.

I left Brisbane to find greener pastures, only to realise that they were right here at home all along. Just have a look at how many nominations Queensland venues have picked up this year.

We are Brisbane, and we’re coming for you Australia!

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