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Sustainability on tap

Working in the industry, it’s unfortunately all too common to see wastage.

That fact didn’t sit well with the team behind Melbourne bar Bonny, who set out to create a venue that champions sustainability in every way it possibly can.

Bonny was open for just four weeks before COVID-19 shut down the on-premise industry, but last week it reopened it’s door again with the same commitment to sustainability.

Co-owner Adam Betts, who also operates Edge Brewing Project and Northdown Craft Beer, spoke to Bars and Clubs about Bonny pre-pandemic. He described how seeing the impact of beer production on the environment developed his desire to champion sustainability at his first bar.

“I think it’s really important that all existing businesses and new businesses now really take responsibility for the environment, certainly in terms of wastage and energy, so the next generation is lucky enough to have all the things we had,” Betts said.

Bonny, which Betts co-owns with Beermash’s Shayne Dixon, has a majority of their beverages on tap and recycles wherever possible to avoid single use plastics and containers.

Beers, wines and cocktails across the 27 taps are changed up regularly. Beer and wine kegs are mainly sourced from independent local producers that share a value for sustainable practice, while the cocktails kegs are mixed fresh daily.

“We don’t have any contracts, so everything we put on is a one off keg basically. Once it’s all out, we tap something different,” Betts said.

“The six signature cocktails, which Josh [Crawford] makes up daily and batches into kegs, they’re all run under a nitrogen system to ensure they stay fresh… Josh is very big on reusing, for example, any beer wastage that goes through the taps gets collected and he uses that as an ingredient to turn into a cocktail.”

One of the biggest waste makers behind the bar are in cocktails, especially garnishes that don’t utilise a whole ingredient or are made from non-edible materials. Bonny avoids waste in this way too, while also providing plastic straw alternatives and even making their own sodas in house.

Betts said: “The garnishes are all organic and reused. If we use an orange twist, we then juice the oranges and do mimosas on the weekend with the juice. Everything gets fully sort of cycled through like that rather than just using something for a garnish and that’s it.

“Our straws are actually straw, and we also have a couple of stainless steel straws if anyone is coeliac because the straws are basically dried wheat.”

Bonny’s back bar (image credit: Paul Kristoff).

Apart from the menus, the physical aspects of the bar too lend themselves to sustainability. The bar and tables are made from reclaimed Victorian hardwood called Messmate, and all lighting is LED with scheduled dimmers.

To further close the loop, Bonny will be utilising the backyard space where the bar isn’t licensed to operate in, and create a garden where they can grow ingredients for food and cocktails. Betts is also linking up his other businesses to reduce waste on another level.

He said that a lot of the wineries they like either don’t keg or put the wines in plastic kegs. To avoid these plastics, Betts will be sanitising empty stainless steel kegs from his brewery and making local trips to producers in the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula.

“I’ll arrange it with wineries ahead of time to drop in and get kegs filled from all different wineries in that region. I think it’s a really unique way of reducing plastic with vineyards, there’s no wastage, and we can provide the kegs and filling equipment,” Betts explained.

Bonny has now reopened on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, Wednesday to Sunday evenings, for bookings only as per current Victorian COVID-19 restrictions. Apart from a different style of trade required by COVIDSafe guidelines, the reopened Bonny also has a new chef partnership for the food menu.

Curating Bonny’s menu is two-hatted chef Peter Gunn from Ides in Collingwood, who Masterchef viewers may remember from the intricate black box pressure test this season.

Gunn says the Bonny plates are: “wholesome and filling… food you want to eat while enjoying a drink.”

Betts added: “We’re huge fans of Ides and we’re so excited to partner with Peter Gunn, serving up a fresh menu and dining experience, completely designed for Bonny – this is a new and exciting chapter for us”.    

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