While many small bar operators are running out of the burning building that is Kings Cross, there are some still running toward the flames. bars&clubs spoke to manager Joe Van der Heide about the new venture Parsons Bar.
Why Kings Cross given the current landscape?
When we first heard about the lockouts we thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t exactly terribly well thought through. One thing that was helpful was Kellet Street’s amazing history. It has always been such a popular street in hospitality and when we picked this place we saw that The Powder Keg was starting up, the Dollhouse was just taken over, and Café Roma has been open for 30 years. The lockouts just meant we had to be a bit smarter about things. We decided our aim was to attract the locals back to an area they once loved. I think part of the lockouts meant that anybody who lived here wouldn’t necessarily find their scene on Darlinghurst strip – we wanted to appeal to them and get them back. When you turn off Bayswater Rd and turn that corner onto Kellet St it is like a whole new world – it’s completely different and it’s only 100 metres away. So we decided something a little bit more personal and private would be the way to go. Embrace the area – it’s what small bars do. Look at Newtown or Balmain – there is no reason we can’t do it here.
When did the dream to open a bar begin?
After about a month working in hospitality. I mean everybody who works in the industry – that isn’t studying to do something else – usually loves it and has aspirations of their own place. It has always been the dream and the goal I guess. Why wouldn’t you want to own your own bar?
What was the process?
We began looking at the start of last year and it was a long and gruelling process. Any place that we found was either too much or not viable financially. We did end up finding some cool places, but we could never land any. When we heard about this place we weren’t very hopeful at all, but ended up checking it out. Myself, dad and my brother, Nick, initially looked at it and by the time we got back to basecamp we were like “yeah, this is it”. Then we started our construction plan and oh my lord, that was something else entirely. We spent the first three weeks planning everything and putting our mood board together – then we hit the nails and hammers hard.
How did you juggle everyone’s ideas?
A big part of it is getting along – every waking minute. It kind of fell into place pretty easily and being brothers who have lived together for long enough – although it is the first time we have all worked together in eight years – it was easy because we have similar tastes, we just agree on stuff. We went into it as Art Deco and then as we started looking at different stuff it all sort of fell into place. We knew we didn’t want it to be a speakeasy or a Prohibition-style bar as we didn’t want to be what was out there already. Not that the area is done, we just wanted to be something new. Our designer was actually the one who came up with the final idea – he just worded it perfectly. He said, “What about working class Australian?”
What does working class Australian look like?
A bar that three idiots built. Basically, it’s the period during 1920-1940 which had a huge European influence. Because of the huge entertainment offering the area was quite wealthy, with people travelling from all over the country to attend the theatre or opera. Meanwhile, there would always be these European off-the-boaters looking for whatever work they could find. Eventually, they began to set up streetfood stores which are the inspiration of our European- Mediterranean share menu.
Address: 3 Kellett Street, Potts Point