Exclusive: Old Bar Owners Acquire North Melbourne’s Public Bar
News posted Monday, August 6 2012 at 01:00 PM.
Related: Public Bar, Old Bar.
Following their expansion into regional Victoria, owners of Melbourne’s Old Bar have set their sights a little closer to home.
Liam Matthews, Singa Unlayiti and Joel Morrison have today (August 6) announced their acquisition of The National Hotel on Victoria Street in North Melbourne. Better known as The Public Bar, the venue hosted live music from 1993 until its closure in September last year. It was previously put on the market by pub broker Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels as having “potential for ten levels residential development”.
We spoke briefly to Matthews this afternoon as the ink was still drying on the deal.
So why the Public Bar?
Quite simply because it became available at the right time for us and we were lucky enough to have someone bring it to our attention before it went on the open market. It’s a venue we know well and have spent plenty of time at over the years, so it was also something that we were pretty comfortable with running.
How long have you been looking at the venue?
I think it was about three weeks ago that we made the call. It was on the market a while back but the timing was off as we had just bought The Bridge Hotel freehold. Someone else grabbed it and changed a few things and for whatever reason it didn’t work out. They left and we swooped in.
What are the terms of the licence/lease?
The licence is the same licence The Public Bar had so we can eventually open seven days a week and go very late over the weekend. In fact, it has a 24-hour licence for Friday and Saturday. The lease is nice and long, so all going well, we should be there for quite some time.
What are your plans for the pub?
I dare say it will mirror The Old Bar. We are very happy and comfortable here so why do anything differently? It’s been closed for a few months now so it’s a bit dusty. We will clean it up a tad and host live music as much as we can. There’s still a kitchen there so we will need to talk about where this may take us, but I assume we will use it to some degree.
Will you need to do any significant renovations?
Nothing. The stage still exists although it’s without a sound system. All the equipment is there for us to pour beer so we will open pretty quickly after getting the licence in our name. The cellar stinks, that may need some attention.
How many nights a week will you be hosting live music?
We hope to have live music every day that we trade, same as The Old Bar. I’d say that we will start by opening three or four days a week until we find our feet then blow it out as much as we can handle. I’d suggest we will end up at some point being open seven days a week.
2011 was a difficult year for live music in North Melbourne, with the closure of The Arthouse as well. Are you concerned at all?
Not really. I think that there’s quite a lot of people that live in the area. I think that if we can do something good with the place then people will come.
This is your third pub now. Any plans for further expansion?
With The Bridge being leased by Brendan [Noonan] and Kat [Hamilton] there is really nothing for us to do there. They are doing an amazing job and really we just go up there and enjoy what they have created every now and then. The Old Bar takes up a lot of time as it runs seven nights a week with bands every night, but in saying that, the people that come here make it a very rewarding place to own. If we can get The Public Bar running anything like The Old Bar, then they should work hand-in-hand. I don’t think there’s really any room in our lives for anything else.
When do you officially open? Anything special planned?
We are hoping to be open somewhere between mid-September and mid-October but we are in the hands of the licensing gods, so no official date has been set as yet. I’m sure Joel has a laundry list of stuff that he will want to cram into the first month to kick things of, and it’ll be left to the rest of us to catch up with him.