NSW small bars become a collective to address challenges
Small bar operations across New South Wales now have a unified voice with the formation of the NSW Independent Bars Association.
BARS&clubs magazine reported a meeting was held last Sunday night at Restaurant Hubert.
The main speaker was House of Pocket CEO Karl Schlothauer who told the gathering: “After a painful process of trying to extend the trading hours on one of my small bars, which involved a massive time, resource and financial commitment over 10 months, I was granted one hour.
“[It was] half of what I was asking for and a lot less than pubs in the surrounding area already had.
“When I looked back on this I wondered, ‘Why is it so fucking hard?’ There must be other guys out there facing the same challenges, if not more than me.
“This is why the IBA has to exist. It’s a collective community and an organised united voice.”
Issues that the association will use its collective numbers to tackle advocacy, lobbying and working with the authorities to change things for the better, and develop strategies to get “people out of the house and in venues.”
BARS&clubs reported that an interim board sees Schlothauer as president, Pasan Wijesena as vice president, Luke Ashton as treasurer and Charlie Lehmann as secretary.
40 bars have joined the association with a target of increasing that number up to 100 by the time the new association holds its first annual general meeting.
Sydney’s small bar scene has boomed since 2008 when the state government attracted a new breed of entrepreneurs by dropping requirements for bars with less than 60-capacity to have to serve a meal, be in a hotel or have a gaming licence.
Licenses to start a small bar were slashed from $15,000 to $500.
Within 12 months, 70 new bars had opened, rising to 100 the year after as customers clamoured for new venues.
City of Sydney estimated their collective turnover ten years ago at $50 million.
Last Friday, when the minister for racing Paul Toole announced that the freeze on new licenses for music venues in Kings Cross and the Sydney CBD would be lifted, he said he expected a boom similar to the one in 2016 for small bars.
This was when the government raised the patron lift from 60 to 100 and extended trading hours for those in the two precincts from midnight to 2 am.
“Small bar licence numbers have almost doubled across NSW since the reforms and they are adding to the diversity of Sydney’s nightlife,” he said.