Less than two years after their US-themed venue opened in Nedlands, the owners of Varsity Bar have branched out beyond the inner western suburbs to set up a standalone burger bar in Northbridge.
Varsity is the brainchild of business partners Matt Pound, Fabian Bucher and Ben Maher, who purchased the Basement on Broadway pub at a discounted price following the murder of its former proprietor, Craig Puddy.
To ensure the venue made a break with its past it was gutted and refurbished to become Varsity Bar, a US-themed sports bar with a level of authenticity previously not seen at any Western Australian venue.
Mr Pound, whose passion for all things stars and stripes developed after he spend time at summer camps in the US, told Business News the timing was right for such a venue to open in February last year.
“We grabbed onto it at the right time when American culture, particularly food, was starting to seep through Australia,” Mr Pound said.
“We started off really simple; our first menu was just chicken wings, Philly cheese steak, sloppy Joe’s and Pizzas.
“We just developed it from there.”
Part of that development was the introduction of Varsity Bar’s burger menu – authentically American-style burgers of beef, pulled pork and chicken.
“We knew what we wanted to do – we didn’t want to do healthy,” Mr Pound said.
“Everyone else was coming out with healthy burgers, and we thought if we were going to make an impact, we’ve got to be different.”
The commitment to authenticity, including a US-style brioche bun and American cheddar cheese, struck such a chord with Varsity Bar punters that the business partners shortly began considering expansion.
“The next step was burgers. I think a lot of our success has been in the simplicity of it – it didn’t cost much to set up, it doesn’t cost much to run and it just grew from there.”
Varsity Burgers opened in September, at a hole-in-the-wall venue tucked down a laneway in Northbridge.
“We’re just trying to find our feet at the moment and establish a solid business, but after Christmas we really want to do things like have small events, have permanent seating and tables and create more of a destination,” he said.
“If you take a negative, which was a sketchy area, it only takes a little bit to turn it into a positive, and I think the people that live through here appreciate it.”