Bartender Magazine’s Dave Spanton to open Sydney’s smallest bar
It’s with great excitement that we can finally report on a project that has been simmering away for the past 12 months. On Friday last week, we finally received the green light for the liquor licence for The Piccolo Bar in Kings Cross. To give you the lowdown, here is a letter from Bartender magazine founder and publisher, Dave Spanton, outlining what’s been going on and his plans for saving and revitalising this tiny little venue:
The Piccolo Bar, is the oldest café in Kings Cross, dating all the way back to 1952. In 2020, I heard that it was about to be lost forever and so I felt compelled to take the plunge and try to save this iconic hospitality venue. It’s a tiny little place with just 12 seats inside and eight outside but it seemed like the perfect opportunity to help in the mission to revitalise The Cross.
Before the lockout laws, The Piccolo Bar was a must-visit cosy non-licenced café open from 6pm-6am every night. It attracted people from all walks of life looking for a little respite from the fast-paced world just outside its doors. Unfortunately, like many places in The Cross, it had fallen on hard times over the past decade, due to lockout laws, COVID and the retirement of its legendary former operator Vittorio Bianchi (who started working in the café back in 1964).
I was a resident of the area for over a decade back in the 1990s and 2000s. I have seen so many historic places cease to exist or be transformed into something unrecognisable. So, I wanted to do something to ensure the historic Piccolo didn’t disappear forever. I also feel strongly that things can and will change for the positive in Kings Cross. I hope we will see the backstreets continue to come alive with even more quality small bars, cafes, restaurants and shops. Reinventing the Piccolo as a licensed bar and diner is our small way of helping this happen.
So what are the plans for the space? You honestly can’t buy the history this place has so we want to make sure we keep that alive. If you ever visited Piccolo you will no doubt remember the famous photo wall. I will be keeping this alive with a selection of old school pictures along with a bunch of new ones with historic value that I have spent a small fortune collecting. I am lucky to have my old friend, artist and designer Michael Delany (Honkytonks, The Bottom End, Prince of Wales, The Forrester’s, The Oxford Tavern, among others) help bring this neighbourhood aperitivo bar and diner concept to life, while ensuring we respect the historic value of the site.
In terms of F&B, we will be focussing on a small selection of classic cocktails, a back bar filled with whiskies and amari, plus a simple and hearty diner menu sourced from some of the local businesses and suppliers. We will update you on this once the menus have been finalised before opening.
“The Piccolo Bar, is the oldest café in Kings Cross, dating all the way back to 1952. In 2020, I heard that it was about to be lost forever and so I felt compelled to take the plunge and try to save this iconic hospitality venue. It’s a tiny little place with just 12 seats inside and eight outside but it seemed like the perfect opportunity to help in the mission to revitalise The Cross.”
Now in case you’re wondering whether I will be working at the bar well, the answer is yes. There is just no way I can put all this together and not be hands on. It’s been 20 years since I last worked the bar or floor, so I am excited to be back hosting and trying not to get in the way too much, while enjoying learning from people who are way more experienced and talented than me.
For those in the bar industry – readers of Australian Bartender magazine and attendees to our events like Sydney Bar Week – please rest assured that those things will continue to operate as normal and continue to be my main job, picking up steam again as we get on top of this pandemic.
I’m looking for an experienced bar manager and a couple of bartenders to come on board so please get in touch if you’re interested. I hope to be opening the doors by August for this next chapter in the life of the Piccolo Bar – what I believe will be sharing the title of Sydney’s smallest bar (with Cantina OK!) in one of the city’s oldest cafes.
You can follow The Piccolo Bar on our socials here:
David Spanton, BIO
A trailblazer in the Australian hospitality trade media and events industry, David’s career began as a bartender and bar manager in some of Sydney’s leading hotels and bars before he launched Spanton Media Group in 1998 at the ripe old age of 23.
He has developed several innovative, industry-specific publications and events that are still market leaders today including Australian Bartender magazine, australianbartender.com.au, Bar Show/Sydney Bar Week, Indie Spirits Tasting, Whiskey Roadshow, The Business of Bars Conference, The Top 100 Most Influential List and the Bartender Magazine Australian Bar Awards.
David’s flagship publication, Australian Bartender magazine, is in its 22nd year and will publish its 250th monthly edition in 2021 and over the years has been nominated numerous times for Best Cocktail & Spirits Publication at Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards.
David is a sought-after speaker and contributor for hospitality industry events and publications and over the years has been involved with Tales of the Cocktail (New Orleans), Mixology (Germany) & Drink Magazine (China) and interviewed on numerous podcasts.
In 2021 David looks forward to starting a new chapter with the relaunch of The Piccolo Bar in Kings Cross.