The Village Bar in Subiaco has been created by a close-knit trio, who are hoping to bring locals back to their pub. Emily Morgan reports.
There is a sizable, light-filled, good old-fashioned pub in Subiaco that is attempting to add something new to Perth’s bar scene, which has been slowly evolving in the past couple of years with a string of kooky small wine bars opening.
Yes, The Village Bar is bucking that trend and is bringing back jugs of beer at your local.
It has replaced what were Ess Bar’s dark carpets and live bands with young percussion-playing DJs, a local produce-based menu offset by a background of polished cement and exposed brick.
These could easily be mistaken as superficial changes, but in this case transforming the venue was as strategic as it was aesthetic.
The transition has been a family affair; Amelia Goyder, her fiancé Michael Walker and his brother Luke bought the venue in October 2010 with a strong will to establish a bar that catered to locals.
Their plan was to immediately step in, shut down and renovate, reopening as soon as possible; but the commitments Ess Bar had on its books meant they operated the venue as it was for almost four months before shutting it down – a blessing in disguise.
“We were initially hoping we could purchase, step in, shut down, renovate. But it worked out really well to have that four months of trade to come in and see who the clients were, see why they came and see who we wanted to keep and who we didn’t necessarily keep and then devise the strategy around that,” Michael says.
Instead of letting the market choose the bar, the owners used that time to flip it around and determine what demographic they wanted to appeal to and what they needed to do to create that attraction.
Aesthetics played an obvious role.
Amelia says operating as the Ess Bar allowed them to work out where the faults in the layout were, where the bottlenecks were and what the elements were that needed to change, like the live band. “What that time between September and December made concrete for us, was that we did want a different crowd,” Amelia says.
They had watched rising prices of bars and restaurants and realised the way they could attract locals was by making their product offering different.
“We really felt there was a hole in the market for somewhere to go and be really relaxed, casual but still get great food and good wine at a reasonable price,” Amelia says.
Being nestled in the Subiaco Village has allowed the owners to dig into the burgeoning Subiaco business area; Luke says the time operating as the Ess Bar also allowed them to figure out exactly what that local corporate crowd wanted.
“That period of time gave us a chance to test the corporate market, and develop relationships with iiNet, for example, and some of the other businesses in the area. Over that time we have worked very hard to create a venue that works for them corporately and works as a bar,” Luke says.
Along with altering the appearance of the Village, they plan to create a promotional program where drivers’ licences with local postcodes and those with local business cards will be offered special deals.
“We really wanted to extend what we would give our friends to everyone else locally,” Amelia says.
The Village Bar may have only reopened with its new face in mid-February, but so far so good – the family members cum business partners say Friday nights have been their most busy so far and are drawing the target market.
Having hospitality in the blood may have something to do with the quick upswing – with Michael and Luke having grown up in a pub-owning family.
“I had always wanted to own a bar, and it was just a matter of time before it happened really, this one felt right,” Michael says. His brother agrees, and says it is a combination of factors that attracted him to opening The Village Bar.
“It’s the opportunity to work with Mike and Mil on a venture like this in an area like Subiaco where we grew up and spent so much time … and I think it’s every boy’s dream to own a pub,” Luke says.
The corporate experience between the three owners has not gone astray either, with Amelia using her extensive experience from her executive marketing position in restaurants and bars at Burswood to run the back of Village house; Michael and Luke, who have had roles as Westpac regional manager and Thrifty car rentals national operations manager respectively, are pulling the beers and running the front of the Village.
“With the professional backgrounds we have all brought to the business, it has allowed us to move and think strategically rather than get caught up with the emotion of something,” Luke says.