Rechabites Hall in Northbridge was officially relaunched as a 1,500-capacity, multi-use venue earlier this month, with the overhaul driven by former Artrage chief executive Marcus Canning.
Now operating as The Rechabite, the site features a restaurant, theatre, basement and rooftop bar, with substantial financial backing from FJM Property managing director Adrian Fini and Primewest co-founder Jim Litis.
“Because it has been empty so long, it’s become one of those strange, forgotten places that became invisible when people walked past,” Mr Canning said.
“When people come inside and start engaging with this place, one of the things they say is it’s like a TARDIS.
“You go through the doors and start exploring all these different levels and … they don’t realise this was here, sitting in this spot, right next to the cultural centre and the entertainment precinct.”
Rechabites Hall was built in the 1920s on commission from the Independent Order of Rechabites, a ‘friendly society’ that started in Manchester, England, in the 1830s with ties to the temperance movement.
Since the IOR vacated the premises in the 1940s, the venue has undergone several changes and renovations, ranging from a lease with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, to a squat and rehearsal space for cult Perth rock band Beaverloop.
“I’m sure there are some Rechabites out there spinning in their grave at the thought of all these bars here now,” Mr Canning said.
“But we do like to think at the core of this is still the notion of a friendly society.”
Mr Canning’s redesign pays tribute to aspects of the site’s 100-year history, ranging from use of the Rechabites’ crest in the restaurant’s imagery through to commissioning graffiti artists who had tagged the building to add additional art to the rooftop bar.
And though the property’s history has influenced the redesign overall, Mr Canning said each floor would offer distinctive experiences, with the basement bar drawing on aspects of Berlin’s nightclubs and the theatre’s stacked mezzanines inspired by the setup of Shakespeare’s Globe.
“The four different floors, we want them to feel quite unique and distinct in their own right,” he said.
“Over the course of the night, someone might come to dinner in the restaurant, and then find themselves six hours later having explored four floors.”
Mr Canning said the original plan had been to sublease each floor to create a diversity of experiences, drawing on the concept of ‘vertical laneways’ popular in Melbourne’s multi-level commercial properties.
That plan was dropped, however, when he realised that centralised ownership would allow patrons to move seamlessly between each floor’s offerings.
“We realised quite early that, to have the most effective and efficient use of this space in terms of ensuring the most number of people could enjoy it, we had to centralise operational services,” Mr Canning said.
“This idea we could run businesses across levels was simplified, but the idea we could give the impression [of variety] continued.”