Live music underpins the transformation of North Perth’s historic The Rosemount Hotel. Emily Morgan reports.
ITS name may be unchanged since 1902, but that’s about all that has remained constant at The Rosemount Hotel over the years.
It’s now an established feature of trendy North Perth, surrounded by boutiques and cafes; but when it was built the suburb was on the fringe of metropolitan Perth and tramlines traced the corner on which the hotel sits – Fitzgerald and Angove streets.
During the past 20 years it been a gay bar and an Irish pub, among other incarnations, but for the past three years general manager Mitchell Debono has been remodelling ‘The Rosie’ back to its purest form.
“At the end of the day we are still a pub,” Mr Debono told Gusto.
Things were fairly quiet when Mr Debono bought into the business.
“Back then it was an alternative crowd. Well, there wasn’t really a crowd, it was pretty quiet,” he says.
Having moved from Sydney, Mr Debono recognised the first crucial element to drawing people back to The Rosemount was to create a menu.
“Once you have food you have people coming through the venue, then you get people coming back on weekends,” he says.
Having come from the east coast where pub meals weren’t contending with top restaurant prices, Mr Debono says it was important to establish an affordable and realistic menu.
With that in mind, the Rosemount’s chefs have created a menu that is all hand made, right down to the pizza bases and sauce; but it isn’t about $30 mains – lunch will cost $12.50.
“I am happy to pay good money for good food. A pub should be a pub,” Mr Debono says.
After developing the menu, planning a program of nightly events was the next step in attracting the punters.
“Monday nights we put on bingo, which drew its own crowd, we get from 100 to 150 people, which is pretty good considering most pubs would have hardly anyone there on a Monday,” Mr Debono says.
“You don’t have to make a lot of money on a Monday or Tuesday, as long as you aren’t losing money.”
Building an identity for each night – with Tuesday trivia night and cheap food and drinks on Wednesday popular with uni students – has helped to draw consistent crowds.
The pub’s Four5Nine function area has taken off as well.
Underpinning all of this is what the Rosemount has been known for all along – live music.
The pub won the WAMI award this year for most popular live music venue, something Mr Debono says helped to bolster the venue’s brand and marketing.
“That is the core of the venue, the live music,” he says. “The music side is established now, we get some big bands coming through. That obviously helps to get people coming back, once they have had a good time they will come back again and again, it is about building a reputation.”
Building the pub’s visual brand was another of Mr Debono’s initial moves and the 1950s pin-up Varga girl has become synonymous with the place.
Establishing a unique image for events and the pub itself that’s “sexy but not too over the top” has been Mr Debono’s way of ensuring brand recognition that resonates with punters.
He expects trade at the pub, in its current form, will continue for another 12 months, with the next step in the process likely to be expanding its sports offerings.
To this end, Mr Debono is currently building a new smaller bar upstairs that will have a separate entrance. “It will be a classier bar,” he says.
“It is still about a year away from where it needs to be. Once a pub is at its peak, there isn’t much you need to do, it just turns over I suppose; you just keep it fresh.”