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"If it isn't authentic, if it isn't based in quality, then it will
be doomed to fail."
It's always interesting what themes
appear in an issue as it begins to come
together. As the features fall into place,
as interviews are conducted, there
always tends to be an unmistakable, if
sometimes unintentional, theme to the
This issue was no different, though
perhaps the theme was a little more intentional. Chatting with
bartenders along with bar operators, consultants and owners, it
is always heartening to see how many of them are truly focused
on the pursuit of quality over gimmicks or cheap tricks.
It's only natural that the topic of quality would come up
when discussing the varied and somewhat murky area of
adding theatre to venues. While it might seem like an easy fix to
spice up a potentially flat-lining concept, speaking to those who
have successfully engineered theatre into their line-up, it is clear
that quality and authenticity have to come first. There is no
point in simply sticking a microphone in the corner of the bar,
hiding your entry behind a tangle of plastic ivy leaves, or even
just dumping dry ice in every drink as far as the eye can see.
Sure, you could try any of those things, however, those in the
know all agree on one thing: if it isn't authentic, if it isn't based
in quality, then it will be doomed to fail.
Previous Operator Profile guest, Grant Collins, has worked all
around the world creating bar concepts and reinvigorating staid
bars -- making him the ideal go-to on what not to do. And he
pulls no punches. For him, every aspect of a concept has to fit
together, and has to have a basis in quality. Think of it as a really
technical jigsaw puzzle that you have to complete backward -- if
that analogy is even possible. Which is just a roundabout way of
saying you need to create a killer concept then work backward
to fill in the details or the flair, if you will. It's a way to guarantee
that your customers aren't confused when they're confronted
by a cocktail list of smoking tiki drinks in a bar that looks like
someone transplanted a Meatpackers District warehouse into
suburban Perth... unless your idea is to be as jarring as possible
-- in which case, good luck to you, we're not ones to judge.
The main crux here is to work what you know, and push
boundaries in subtle ways. Customers are always looking to
escape -- whether or not they want a fun escape or to be left
alone is up to you to judge, then act accordingly. After all, the
guy in the suit waiting on his double Scotch on the rocks may
not be the best candidate to try your new flair routine on. Then
again he might really need a good laugh.
The moral of the story is that there is a time and a place
for everything in terms of theatre. It's just about achieving
authenticity and maintaining balance along the way.
On a completely different note, on a whirlwind tour of
Melbourne recently -- did anyone else sample Good Beer Week?
-- I was excited to drop into a few new bars and quietly check
out what was on offer. And it was universally impressive -- great
drinks, great people, and fantastic atmospheres. It goes to
show that the Australian bar scene really is worthy of the global
attention it has garnered in the past few years, with plenty of
momentum to carry us through the next few years.
How to introduce theatre without
THE SCIENCE OF DISTILLING
PREMIUM MIXERS TO TAKE
YOUR BAR NEXT LEVEL
PLUS: THE MARGARITA • ALL ABOUT LIQUEURS • STOUTS & PORTERS
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