Pioneering Sydney bar Eau de Vie is looking for a new home after the Speakeasy Group decided it could not reasonably continue to operate in its current location.
Eau de Vie has been in its current location at the Kirketon Hotel on Darlinghurst Road for 11 years, but Sven Almenning told Bars and Clubs that they could not reach an agreement with the landlord over rent, particularly in the post-COVID environment.
“We’ve been considering relocating the venue for quite some time; the area got destroyed by the lockouts. If you think about a venue that is just a bar, not a pub or a restaurant, then I think we are the only bar that survived in the entire area,” Sven said.
He added: “Our lease expired on October 28, so we have been talking to out landlord for quite a while, trying to figure out what we can do to stay in the space, because we love the space.
“But the rent the landlord wants, and the situation of that area post-COVID, it just doesn’t marry up for us. The landlord has been great, but for us it comes down to the asking rent and the location, the Cross just isn’t what it used to be. If the bar had been located in the CBD for the last five years we would probably have done four times the turnover.”
It’s not been an easy decision, or one the group has taken lightly, especially given the bar’s history, as Sven explained.
“I don’t think we’ll ever open a venue with that kind of cultural significance again. Eau de Vie has been recognised as one of the pioneer cocktail bars in Australia, and one of the bars that put us on the map. So taking it down is not something we wanted to do and that’s why we’ve had the lease there for nearly 11 years.”
The big question now is where will the bar head to, and as the group weighs up how people and businesses will operate in a post-COVID environment, it’s not a clear or easy decision to make.
“The tricky thing now is where do we move? We have been looking at a number of sites in the CBD, and we’ve looked at some amazing sites and some leases, but you know Avalon is busier than the Sydney CBD right now.
“We know we’re going to close it, we know we are going to move it, we just don’t know where to yet. If it hadn’t been for COVID we would go straight to the city for sure, however in the city 80 per cent of the foot traffic is gone.”
The impact of COVID on how workers are operating in office space in the city is a huge impact on the decision, and it remains unclear if and when things will return to some kind of normal in high density areas like the CBD, where many offices are not expecting to return to much more than 50 per cent capacity.
Looking ahead Sven said he wasn’t sure when exactly the bar would close.
“We are going to stay open at least until Christmas and then we’ll see what happens. It depends on the bookings we get, what kind of interest we get in parties. The business is OK, just signing another 10-year lease in this location, at this point in time, just seems irresponsible. I couldn’t in good conscience do that, it would just be us holding on to a legacy for the sake of doing it.”
So now it’s on all of us to make sure we head there over the next couple of months to say our farewells and Sven told Bars and Clubs: “I hope people come in, say ‘hi’, and try some of the old drinks. We’ll bring back some of the old drinks, hopefully we can bring back some of the old staff on various nights. We know people have good memories of Eau de Vie, so hopefully they’ll come in and say goodbye.”