Juliana’s Cucina & Bar
Juliana’s Cucina & Bar
21/31 Hall St, Moonee Ponds VIC
English expat, Jacob Goss had definitely made himself at home here in Australia. He knew he wanted to be a bar owner, and waited patiently until the chance to purchase Rum Diary in Melbourne came along. Then, during COVID he opened Rum Diary Newcastle. And now he’s at it again. An opportunity came up to get involved in a suburban restaurant in Moonee Ponds and he jumped at the chance. Hot on the heels of opening, we checked in with Jacob to catch up on the new venue and how it all came to be.
Juliana’s is a bit of a change from the Rum Diary bars? Tell us how this came to be?
It sure is. The technical answer is that my investor for Rum Diary had the opportunity and brought me in. He’d seen what we had done in the industry with Rum Diary and others so thought it would be a good idea to make me part of this one too. The other answer is that the current trend in cocktail bars is moving into that clean, upper-class & classic cocktail offering paired with high-end food and silver service. We’ve seen this from the Maybe Sammy Group, Speakeasy group, and more specifically and close to home venues like Tetto Carolina & Pearl Diver. I’m growing up and can’t play in dive bars forever haha.
Give us a bit of background on how you came to be here – living in Australia with three hospo businesses
Like most Brits, I wanted to travel and see the world but like most Brits I just ended up in a slightly better climate but let’s be honest much cooler country of Australia. I’ve always been hospo from the minute I was allowed to be in hospo and fell in love with every aspect of it. I’ve always strived to improve in any situation I’ve been in and wanted to continue to work my way up. I learn the hard way that the next step up cost a lot of money and unfortunately lost all my savings (and my partner at the times money) through an avoidable and rookie mistake.
After tasting being my own boss, I wanted to continue that as I knew I could do it but with someone else’s money.
That’s where investors came in.
I will say though to any bartenders reading this that have exhausted their level of managing businesses for someone and want to do it for themselves, please be prepared to lose a lot of sleep. Even if you get investors, it can be very stressful as, if like me, you don’t want to let people down. It’s that old saying, “I didn’t want a 9-5 job so I became my own boss… Now I work 24/7.”. This is extremely accurate.
Tell us a little bit about the ethos of Juliana’s.
Juliana’s is situated in Moonee Ponds. A cute little suburb just north/west of the CBD and is fastly becoming a booming hub of its own. From building another venue here prior to Rum Diary, I was very aware that the demographic for people looking for a fun night out and experience is very strong in this suburb. If you’re able to create the vibes and experiences that the likes of the big names in Melbourne & Sydney can in this small town, people will talk and people will come.
The initial design was for a small and classy dining experience with an open kitchen and chef’s table. This was then paired with a solid marble central U-shaped bar that is surrounded by all the guests and comfortable booth seating. This inspired me to take inspiration from our friends at Maybe Sammy and create an eating and drinking experience that the locals and tourists wouldn’t forget and would also be surprised to find in the outer suburbs.
You’ll find your standard dining sittings from lunch, early evening and into the evening. Then at 10pm it all changes. The lights come down, the dimly lit table lamps come on, the music comes on and the surprise live musician from Sax players to “Rat Pack” inspired singers roaming around the venue to interact with the crowd.
IT’s pretty exciting to be opening a third venue; is this just the beginning for you?
It’s been rough and very rocky with Covid. Obviously, Hooch didn’t last and my undisclosed warehouse venue in Richmond is still on the cards but pushed back for now. It is exciting but if I’m honest it can sometimes be overshadowed by the constant fear of impending doom from environmental and external factors that we can’t control. I’d like to think I can continue to grow the group as there’s nothing I’d love more than to champion the managers that have grown and learnt with us and to see them with a percentage of a bar for themselves and under the Gospo Group banner.
Hardest thing about opening a new venue?
Paperwork, council & licensing are always the most time consuming and frustrating but the fresh problem as we all know is staff. We open with a bang and it was fantastic but not wanting to overreach and not provide what we promised, I decided to slow down the bookings to make sure that we could keep up and give the same quality of service to the last customer of the day that we did to the first person who walked in the door. So if you’re looking for a job hit me up.
What do you love most about hospo?
This community. No matter what you need, someone can help. No matter where you go or travel within Australia, you bump into someone that is from the industry or someone that you met and had a foggy conversation with at bar week. It’s a like minded group of selfless people that have dedicated their careers to making sure the rest of the population have memorable experiences. So many staff cop abuse from customers or have terrible experiences with employers but 9 times out of 10 still show up to work the next day. Incredible people that I thank all of them for letting me be a part of such a great crowd of people.
Where would you like to be in 5 years?
Still doing this hopefully. I wouldn’t mind having a larger team like the other groups with people taking care of bookkeeping, marketing etc on top of everything else as opposed to trying to juggle it all but for now it’s got to be done. I’d like to be clear of this pandemic and out of debt so I can breathe and spend all my time doing the parts we love about this business.
What trends are you seeing in bars right now?
I’m loving what Tim and Tony are doing at PAR. A few years ago it was somewhat frowned upon to have your drink pre-made and brought out to you with “minimal effort”. The technical side of what they do and the product they are able to achieve is amazing and needs more recognition. I’m also extremely jealous of venues like this that are sticking to smaller quantities of guests which not only lowers the running cost of the business but gives the team more one-on-one time with the people in front of them. Quality over Quantity is the trend I’m personally seeing.
Who inspires you?
I think my name-dropping throughout has some clear inspirational figures in there haha.
What are you drinking right now?
Right now water because the 6 coffees have dehydrated the hell out of me but I’m very much looking forward to a barrel-aged Negroni at Juliana’s when I get there later today.