Round Table: the future of the bar industry

We gathered a group of bartenders, bar managers, bar owners and brand reps to chew the fat over what is happening in the industry right now, and how the future is looking. Here is just one of the discussions that took place at the Round Table for our new issue – out now.



Paige Aubort, Lobo Plantation

Dom Easter, The Hazy Rose

Alissa Gabriel, Eau De Vie Sydney

Harriet Leigh, Archie Rose

Sarah Miller, Uber Bar Tools

Natalie Ng, Sweet & Chilli

Nikita Ward, The West Winds



NW: It interesting now that when we talk about the bar industry it always comes back to lockout laws and that is the main focus. That is what is destroying or inhibiting a lot of progress in the industry. We just can’t get away from it, because it is everywhere. It’s unfortunate that it is what we’re revolving around when we should be focusing on other things. That said, it’s mainly the laws right now that are the issue. We have so many customers that we have to say to “Oh I’m sorry, even though you have been drinking this neat whisky all night, now that it has tipped to one minute after 12 you can’t actually drink that anymore, unless I put your $30 whisky with cola.” And it’s like, well I’ve been here drinking this all night, but now that it’s hit one minute after 12, I’m going to get really, really drunk and hit someone.


DE: Plus I feel that with the lockouts, it’s not a lockout – it’s a lock in. you’re locking people into a venue for an hour and a half. They’re not going to leave because they know that they can’t get in anywhere else, so mow they’re going to stay until close, when they would have actually probably gone home at 2am. I just think that they’ve done it all backwards. I’ve got no problem with the vast majority of venues shutting at 3am. It is a very reasonable time to be going home, it really is.


HL: Regardless of whether or not it is reasonable, it isn’t anyone’s business to be telling me when to go home. I’m usually in bed by 11pm most nights, but there is no way I would tell a 21 year old that they can’t do what I used to do when I was 21, which was go out until very late. I was young once!


PA: The flip side of that is, that if we could extend our licence to one o’clock or two o’clock, it would be great. The number of people that we see compared to the trade that Baxter gets just from being open that extra hour is incredible. Everyone will leave here just that little bit earlier to make sure that they get that extra hour in somewhere else. So we’ve applied but it obviously didn’t go through. We would love to be open until later. We have no strikes, nothing.


HL: So that’s incredible. Why have you been treated like this? A venue with zero strikes, in an area like thing that is a central part of Sydney and serviced by buses and trains – why are the authorities so against it. We’re a capitalist society, it’s actually just depressing. It’s not even funny anymore. There are no other industries that get treated like this.


NN: The laws don’t make sense when it comes to things like shots and spirits and cocktails. On a simplistic level they don’t understand how the body processes alcohol. Why is it ok to get a glass of wine that is usually more than one standard drink, but it’s not ok to get a shot of whisky which is a standard drink? Why is it more socially acceptable for me to drink wine which will technically affect my judgement more than if I got a nip of whisky – incidentally, I’m more likely to sip on the whisky slower too. I think there is a negative and anti-social view of spirits as opposed to wine or beer?


HL: Let’s be honest, the most anti-social people are the people in uniform, with guns strapped to their belts, coming into a place like 10 William Street and saying “this is anti-social behaviour”.


NW: We had sniffer dogs come through Jangling Jacks a few months ago. It was a regular Saturday night and then suddenly these two sniffer dogs came through and cased the whole venue. Everyone was really awkward and this lawyer was filming the whole thing on her phone and the cop went and did a wave and a dance in front of her camera. I was like eeesh.

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