For two years The George has offered style and class in the city. Emily Morgan reports.
WEN The George opened its doors two years ago it offered inhabitants of the city’s office towers a stylish new venue for the Friday night wind-down.
Decked out in masculine marble, hard wood and leather, its presence opened the floodgates for other small bars in the city, a trend-setting role its founding owners, John Ahern and Steve Garcia, are not unaccustomed to.
Caroline Watson has been a staff member at The George, in the role of operations manager, since it opened in 2008 and this year became part owner in the business, an opportunity she says is rare in the hospitality world.
“John and Steve gave me the opportunity to buy in; at the end of the day you can work in hospitality for a long time, my background was Burswood, before that was Crown, you don’t tend to get those sort of opportunities where you can have a piece of something to call your own,” Ms Watson told Gusto.
“For someone in hospitality to set up a business the size of The George, the capital that you would need, most people don’t get that in a lifetime. When you do get the opportunity, you take it and run with it.”
Ms Watson believes The George broke new ground on St Georges Terrace, changing the city’s hospitality culture in the process.
“Perth city was dead, it has been dead its entire life. After 5 o’clock people never went into the city to do anything,” she says.
“If you looked at the city before we came to town, venues of note were BarOne and that was a Monday-to-Friday place.
“When we got here you could go to Box Deli, Carnegies or the Belgian, but if you wanted anything with style or class, you didn’t have a choice.
“You come to the city now, you can go to The George, BarOne, Green House, Helvetica, Andaluz, Wolf Lane, and Generous Squire if you want more of a pub. You have half a dozen great venues you can go to on a Saturday night.”
And Messrs Ahern and Garcia have bigger plans than simply the addition of Ms Watson to the team, with two new venues expected to shake up the Perth scene by February next year.
Later this month the first of the two will open at the old Terrazza site on Hampden Road,with the Byrneleigh, a venture in which Ms Watson also has a share, set to whet appetites in Nedlands and beyond.
“Instead of being a venue where the locals in Nedlands only go, it is going to be a destination venue. People in the city will want to go there, not just because it is on Hampden Road, it is in a great spot and we get local traffic, I want people to come there for a reason,” she says
Messrs Ahern and Garcia, who have a stable of 12 venues across Victoria, say the Byrneleigh will be very different to The George, with bright décor and a menu that appeals to a mixed demographic.
The third site will open by February in the newly established one40william complex, and will be twice the size of The George, comprising a separate rooftop bar.
The as-yet-unnamed site will be juxtaposed to The George, designed to be feminine and round in shape.
“You will see with how we did The George, the Byrneleigh… 140 will continue to strive for that food service and something that is a little bit different in Perth,” Ms Watson says.
There are synergies between the venues, however, with good food, great atmosphere and a good looking building all brand signatures.
And while opening night of the two new venues is still pending, Ms Watson is positive about the future, saying the sky’s the limit for opportunities in Perth, with a large talent pool and a city hungry for great venues.