Sydney hotel bars are a “missed opportunity”

By Andy Young, editor TheShout

Ben Carroll, who founded Applejack Hospitality alongside Hamish Watts, has said he believes that hotel bars in Sydney need to improve.

Carroll and Watts recently took time out from their busy Applejack venues to work on their first consultancy project – a collaboration with Accor hotels. That project was for the new Hacienda Bar at the Pullman Grand Quay Sydney Harbour, which officially opened last week.

With views over Circular Quay and Sydney Harbour, the Hacienda Bar was inspired by the Miami hotels of the 1950s and the grand plantation architecture of Cuba. The bar is likely to become listed as among the best in Sydney, but Carroll believes that hotels in the city have not done enough with their bar spaces. He told TheShout: “If you look around the world, the best bars are generally based in hotels.

Hotels have the money to do amazing fitouts, but unfortunately a lot of the mindset and the skillset is from an accommodation background.

“They are not living and breathing the bar and restaurant industry like other people, like Hamish and myself. They are looking more at the accommodation sector, so therefore that has been what has holding them back for all these years.

“But now they are seeing the opportunity and saying ‘you know what, we’ve got amazing spaces’ and they are putting their hands up and saying ‘we don’t know how to execute this as well as a lot of people out there. We’ve got the money, you’ve got the brains, so let’s get together’.

“And they should be doing that, it makes sense. I think hotel bars in Sydney really need to step it up a notch.”

The other advantage that hotel bars in Sydney have, is that they can be exempt from the city’s lockout laws. As Carroll pointed out: “As long as you are a guest of the hotel, and you can be their guest as well. So if I’m staying at the hotel, I can ask people to come and join me for a drink, we are allowed to go back to that hotel and that could even be a small gathering. As long as one of those people is staying at the hotel, then lockouts don’t apply.”

The Hacienda officially opened last week and although it has had its rewards, Carroll admitted that it has been hard to hand the bar back over to Accor.

“It has been hard work, and we’ve treated it like an Applejacks venue, so we’ve put a lot of hard work into it. It will be hard to say goodbye to it and we don’t get to reap the financial rewards of it once it opens, but it has been a lot of fun coming up with concepts, working with the all the amazing suppliers and builders that we use, so it has been very passionate for us.”

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