16/07/2008 - 22:00

Canton now new Old Canton

16/07/2008 - 22:00


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The venues most sought-after for new hospitality ventures are usually those with something a little special about them.

HISTORY IN THE MAKING: Tai Pham (right) has agreed to sell his stake in the Old Canton Bar to Ben McCombie (left) and Nevis and Russell Brooks a couple of weeks before opening.

The venues most sought-after for new hospitality ventures are usually those with something a little special about them.

The location, the view, and the style of the building are all important factors, but a venue with a bit of history is as unique as you can get and a rare thing in Perth.

You'd think such spots wouldn't be available for long before being snapped up. Well, not necessarily.

Cafe entrepreneur Tai Pham had been operating Shots Espresso Bar at 532 Hay Street for two years before checking out the unused space above the cafe, which had been empty for four years.

What Mr Pham found was a derelict, dusty space that was once a restaurant; but not just any old restaurant. For two years, Shots had been sharing the building that once housed Perth's first Chinese restaurant - the Canton.

The CBD location, great views from the terrace, and the traditional, original Chinese design ticked all the boxes as a great venue to start a new venture, according to Mr Pham.

Mr Pham's curiosity was triggered in May last year, when small bar licences where made available in WA.

"I was never interested in occupying that space, but a month after the small bar licence was introduced I went up there to check out the space and it was just perfect for a small bar," he told Gusto.

Building contractor Ben McCombie and salon owner Glenn Tucker, joined him in the project.

The trio was granted a conditional small bar licence last April, having submitted an application in December 2007.

Now, $600,000 of renovations later, Messrs Pham, McCombie and Tucker are about three weeks away from launching the new bar, which will be called the Old Canton Bar.

But such a unique venue isn't going to be shared between three for much longer.

Mr McCombie, who was initially planning to remain a silent partner, made Messers Pham and Tucker an offer to buy both of their shares.

The new ownership will be a joint venture with Mr McCombie's former employers, construction entrepreneurs Russell and Nevis Brooke.

"I have been involved in the project from the beginning and became very attached to it...I want to have a serious go at getting the bar going well," he said.

Mr McCombie gained extensive experience in the hospitality sector when he was studying and says he always wanted to open his own place, with his construction business a financial means to be able to reach his goal.

"I always had that in mind, but it's almost impossible to work in hospitality and end up buying your own business," he says.

Messrs Pham and Tucker say they are very happy with the offer, which will help them realise other bar and café projects they have on the go.

The Old Canton still has to go through final checks by the City of Perth and the Liquor Licensing Department before it can open.

The 360 square metre bar has retained the original high ceilings and floorboards, and has an upmarket cocktail lounge feel, although Mr Pham says prices will be reasonable.

Mr McCombie, who will be running the day-to-day operations, is confident the bar's location in the heart of the legal district will ensure good custom.

He appointed Hoffman Hewitt, who managed the Dalkeith Vintage Cellars for ten years, to put together the wine list and train the staff.

"I don't want people to be intimidated by the wine list, it's also about making sure that it [the Old Canton Bar] remains an unpretentious place where people don't only go for specific occasions. I want people to feel comfortable coming here for a drink after work," he says.


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