The 2019 Australian Liquor Industry Awards’ Bar Manager of the Year, Alexandra Dahlenburg has been promoted by the Speakeasy Group, becoming its first-ever NSW State Operations Manager.
Stepping up from Venue Manager at Mjølner in Sydney is something that Dahlenburg has been telling the Speakeasy leadership team of Sven Alemming and Greg Sanderson she has wanted for some time.
With this now happening, Dahlenburg is leading the group’s NSW venues out of lockdown, so it’s a double-whammy of excitement with venues coming back online and a new role.
She told Bars and Clubs: “It is very exciting. I’ll be looking after the New South Wales venues, so Nick & Nora’s, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Eau De Vie and Mjølner.
“I opened Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with Joy. It was a project that Sven and Greg gave me after I had been saying to them ‘I need more, I need more, I need more’ for quite a while. So when the opportunity for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang came up, they said to me ‘here’s more’.”
In terms of what that actually entailed, Dahlenburg said: “I was in charge of managing budgets, the build, hiring all the team and getting them all set up and then once Joy was up and running I handed the venue over to her.
“Then we had to start closing down, but when we started coming back on-board and with Greg having head office and a lot of venues to look after, from 2 July we will have eight across Australia, it was decided to split the venues.
“It’s something that I have wanted and have been pushing for, for a while because I don’t want to just run a venue any more, I want to run a company.”
Dahlenburg got a real taste for this next stage of her career through that project of managing the opening of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which she said ‘gave me life’.
“It was so much fun,” she said. “I think we opened it in nine weeks. I always said I didn’t want to do another opening, then they gave me Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and we did it.
“The opening went super-well. I love it. It’s such a cool and sexy venue, it’s very pretty.”
She added: “What was really fun was that I got to work with Sven on the creative side. Sven is so amazing with the creativity side of the business. He has these concepts and that’s where his partnership with Greg works so well, because Greg is the operational bad-ass.
“But working with Sven on the creative of KKBB, was a whole new experience for me, he is brilliant with that creative mind.
“I love working with creative minds like Sven and Alissa Gabriel who I have worked with for three years at Mjølner. The creativity that girl has is amazing, she would sit there and come up with all these ideas and I would say ‘OK let’s do that, we can make that work’.”
One of the immediate and important aspects of Dahlenburg’s new role has been the reopening of Speakeasy’s New South Wales venues and ensuring they are COVID-safe. She told Bars and Clubs this does mean a lot of changes to how they operated pre-lockdown.
“Through Ananas, Sven’s training platform, we have been able to push out a national training program for all our teams. This covers everything from stats about the disease, how it’s transferrable, how long it lives on surfaces – all the World Health Organisation’s information.
“What we are changing in the venues is how we are training staff, what they can and can’t do and the new procedures – things like temperature checks and guest logs.”
With pushing the new training through the Ananas platform it meant that all Speakeasy staff were re-trained within a week, which is an incredible turnaround. What that also means is all the staff understand COVID-safe workplaces, which in turn gives customers confidence in venues.
As Dahlenburg explains: “Everyone is super-happy to come in. With Mjølner it is such an escape when you walk in and that is what we want, we go for escapism in our venues.
“So when people walk in, we try and leave all the paperwork, the QR codes, the sanitisation, all of that at the front door and the moment they walk past the hostess desk we like to make sure a lot of that isn’t prevalent during their dining experience.
“We take our measures to make sure their dining experience isn’t impacted and we are finding that people are loving it. Everyone that has come in is so excited to be out and about and dining again and that’s an energy you want in a venue especially after you have been closed down for so long and it emulates the team’s positive attitude to be back and working.
“We have wonderful people getting out and about and supporting local businesses and that is something we need to keep promoting.”
Congratulations to Alex on her new role, good luck with it and with making this post-COVID period work. All Speakeasy venues are now re-opened, you can find out more through the Speakeasy Group’s website.