The Lobo Plantation operator Jared Merlino has discussed the intricacies of opening two new Sydney bars within the lockout zone, as he and his partners gear up to open Kittyhawk in the CBD and Big Poppa’s on Oxford St.
According to Merlino, his moves have been dictated by the property market, and whether or not there is a site that is workable with the business plan he had in mind.
“With Kittyhawk, opening soon, I always wanted to do a much bigger cocktail bar, a monster cocktail bar, and when that location popped up it was a hotel licence, was a pub, in the back of my mind I didn’t know what the theme was going to be but I had an idea,” he says.
After five long months of negotiations, the deal was settled and the business of working out how the new, high volume cocktail bar will work commenced. It is set to be a 175 capacity venue with a 12 metre long custom built bar, and presents its own unique challenges.
“Kittyhawk has a weird licence – it’s a self-imposed lockout, so it’s essentially a lock in. if you’re in, you can stay in between 12 and 2am, Friday and Saturday,” he says. “For us it’s great, we just will have to be sure we’re full at midnight for the lock in.”
Kittyhawk with see Lobo Plantation fixture, Paige Aubort, coming on board to take the reins behind the bar of the highly anticipated venue.
As for Big Poppa’s, a project Merlino is working on with Lewis Jaffrey (operations manager of Shady Pines, Baxter Inn and Frankie’s), it will be appearing in the soon-to-close Hello Sailor site on Sydney’s Oxford St, and it will feature the somewhat incongruous combination of quality Italian food and hip hop. And Merlino is pretty excited about it, given that he loves the music genre and he himself just wanted somewhere to hangout and listen to it that wasn’t a nightclub.
“With Big Poppa’s, love cheese, love wine, love hip-hop,” he says. “So, the kitchen will be open until 3am for all those wishing to have a glass of wine and cheese platter set to a hip hop soundtrack.”
“We’re redesigning the space so that the Oxford St level actually gets utilised, at the minute with Hello Sailor everyone heads downstairs and stays there. We’re making it much more comfortable and it will be a place that you want to come and eat and drink at one or two in the morning.
“For me all three venues are just things I like. I opened Lobo because I love rum. That’s essentially all it is. So it comes from me wanting to build stuff that I love. Not saying that everyone will love it, but if you do it well everyone likes different elements of it. And I’ve always wanted a cocktail bar where I can go and sit and listen to hip-hop. So it’s more from what I like, and what do the people around me like.”
Merlino is also acutely aware of the stress and pressure involved in opening a new venue after the extreme success of Lobo.
“There is a lot more pressure on your second venue than there is on your first,” he says. “The next one, they are sitting there and waiting and that is what I am feeling right now. People are going to come in and they’re going to look at every detail and see how the drinks come out and what we’ve done differently.”
With Hello Sailor shutting its doors this weekend, Big Poppa’s is a little way off, however Kittyhawk is looking likely to open in a matter of weeks. Stay tuned.
To read more about Merlino and other’s opinions on building a successful business under the lockouts, head here.
Image care of Facebook.