Story by Jono Carr, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening your own bar is the dream for many hospitality professionals.
On a fateful evening a few months back, I received a call from good friends Ben Hickey and Naomi Palmer, owners of the Roosevelt in Potts Point saying they had found a site. Some of the hospo folk in our group we call ‘Danger Friends’, called as such for our ability to over cater our get-togethers, were already on board.
Tom Price GM of Baxter Inn and Steve Davis, venue manager at Opera Bar were in and he was also talking to Shannon Ponsford, Head of international sales for Kollaras and Paul Oscar of Stone and Wood, to round out the seven.
We all met in our much younger days working together or close by in Kings Cross and stayed mates. As some friends of the era left hospo for day jobs or got married, most of us stuck in the game in one way or another, developing our varied skill sets in different venues or companies along the way.
Catch is, the venue itself is due for demolition. As part of the Frankie’s block being taken over for the governments Metro line expansion we knew it was going to here for a good time, not a long time.
‘As the lease is relatively short (we think of it as a long-term pop-up) and that we were ready for the next step, it made sense. On another level, we feel the time a guest chooses to spend in our venue is special. When the site gets knocked down, we’ll take any profits and relocate to a long-term site giving us a unique chance to build the brand and test our product.’
Once we made sure that everyone could keep up their large work commitments, still be hands-on at the venue we just needed a name to get started. Sitting around the round table in the Roosevelts PDR Oscar threw out the winner. About Time.
As the lease is relatively short (we think of it as a long-term pop-up) and that we were ready for the next step, it made sense. On another level, we feel the time a guest chooses to spend in our venue is special. When the site gets knocked down, we’ll take any profits and relocate to a long-term site giving us a unique chance to build the brand and test our product.
How it’s going to look and the offering is an extension of us, the things we enjoy in venues or on travels overseas. The food offering was decided early – low and slow barbecue cooked over charcoal using good Aussie produce.
Backyard BBQs is something we all grew up on, Ben’s farming background gives us access to some amazing beasts from the family farm and surround, a charcoal oven was purchased and sent from Adelaide. Think pulled lamb rolls, farm to charcoal cuts served along the sides we love like a banging slaw, potato salad and homemade French onion dip with Jatz.
Beverage-wise we love a Whisk(e)y with some pretty damn strong knowledge in both Tom and Ben. Showcasing Oscar’s love of independent breweries, Shannon brings a bunch of great Aussie and International wine offered up in large or small formats (Tom loves a magnum). Na’s marketing prowess (and keeps us all in line) with Steve being the king of tap cocktails and slushies and well, we all enjoy a cocktail or several.
The team will be offering up a rotating menu of ‘Classics we’ve fucked with’, seasonal tap spritzes and slushies. One of which is inspired by the lifesaving frozen Irish coffee served at Erin Rose in New Orleans. Like most things we do, they will be pretty tongue in cheek and fun but also tasty and accessible.
In terms of the design, we threw out some ideas that would work in the bright airy space and what we wanted to achieve for the guest experience. The site itself is above ground with lots of natural light and a sunny courtyard, rare in the middle of Sydney CBD.
A colour palette of teal, pink, vermillion and off white with natural wood brings the outside in. We took inspiration from classic Queenslander balconies and Aussie backyards with plants scattered about the space. Sydney loves to throw a sunny day out there and we want to soak it in.
Being on a tight budget and making the best of a sadly extended lockdown, we threw away the exorbitant tradie quotes to build it ourselves, cue a lot of ‘learning by doing’, a motto we’ve lived by the last few months. To ensure the booths don’t crumble under people we luckily have a mate Jason who is an Engineer/ genius, coming in on weekends to solve any problems. A godsend that we owe many a beer.
Tall and low booths are along one wall and a long bar hugging the righthand with seating for eight and a dedicated bartender while the rest of the bar space is available for comfortable pub-style walk-up service and dispensing of libations. A custom Me&U ordering app is on each table for anyone who doesn’t want to leave their seats, we’ll bring it all out for you.
As I write this, we are halfway through the build and aiming to be ready to fling open the doors as soon as this lockdown is over. The experience has been amazing and we can’t wait to share our dream with you. Hopefully, we’ll get to host you sooner than later as no ‘thing’ lasts forever.