Melbourne bar Black Pearl is coming up on 15 years of brilliant boozy service this year. Over the years, they’ve won accolades at Tales of the Cocktail (for the world’s best high volume cocktail bar), been a regular feature on the World’s 50 Best Bars list, produced four Bartenders of the Year, and regularly taken home the silverware at the Bartender Magazine Australian Bar Awards.
So what does it take to keep Black Pearl at the top of its game? Well, bar manager Nathan Beasley (and Bartender of the Year, 2014), gives us an insight below into what is a typical Thursday in Black Pearl living.
Wake up at 10am. Having got home the night before at 5am from shift, this isn’t ideal, but Thursday is meetings day, so them is the breaks. Open the eyes, knock back a half to a litre of water, straight into some exercise, run, gym, swim, then breakfast at home. This is how majority of my days start. Look at my paper checklist for the day, pack my bags, remembering to take out pre-cooked meals (most of the time) for the day ahead, then off to work, three minutes walk up the road.
Working meetings begin between 12pm-2pm, depending on what needs to be covered by the group that day. The managers will set the tone of the meeting, and discussions will be had based upon the topics.
Besides meetings, we also have a year’s worth of a training roster set up, which involves distillery/brewery/winery tours, training sessions conducted by both staff and outside influences, with a homework component.
Various other sessions which may focus on different industries or other aspects of our own that have parallels to creativity, mis en place, the art of hospitality etc. Other times a lunch in Fitzroy may take place, over a few ginger ales, just for some motivation. Sport and women are the dominant topics here.
Once this is all said and done, it’s into service. Black Pearl kicks off prep at 4pm, The Attic at 5pm. The Attic is where I am based on a Thursday.
5pm – 7pm: Myself and Hippie will be setting up. Hippie usually takes care of the Attic bar and floor, while I run up and down the stairs like a nutcase bringing up all that is needed from the shelves, the kitchen etc. Depending on the week, I’ll also try and tick off one or two items of food prep in the kitchen. Coffee is bought from Marios across the road for everyone, and this is where I begin to entertain the group with my caffeine charged ranting and all round brilliance.
7pm – 9pm: Doors open, we start with some Chicago blues or some soul/funk to set the tone. Things are relatively quiet as a general rule, so a little more prep is done for the weekend ahead, and dinner breaks are taken care of. Most of the group are Ubereats freaks, but some of us like to be a little more cash-conscious. Lemon water is something I try to drink a glass of every hour, which is very important to me in order to keep the hydration up.
9pm – 11pm: Majority of our patrons will make their way into the venue. Thursdays can be a little less hectic than Friday, Saturday, and also reasonably hospo heavy, so it gives us a great chance to thoroughly engage our guests, entertain them, and catch up on what they have got going on for the weekend. Black Pearl as a whole, being a long standing neighbourhood venue, has a great rapport with everyone in the area and surroundings suburbs, so we really attempt to embrace those people and make them feel at home, as quick as possible.
11pm – 1am: Much of the same. The music may have gone up in tempo and volume a bit, depending on the night it is, and progressed into some familiar tunes to everyone. Some people may know of the disco inspired ends to the night, which has in the past involved some very heavy footed dancing, much to the confusion of downstairs. We call last drinks at 1am, wish our guests well, hopefully sending them off happy and satisfied, and Chris and I begin the clean up.
1am – 2am: Once the bar is reset and stocks replenished, we will knock off, head downstairs to the corner of the bar, and knock off a Martini or two before bed. If I’m switched on, I’ll make sure to drink plenty of water before bed, and not look at laptop/tv/phone screen for 30 minutes before lights out.