It was a happy coincidence, or just good timing, that saw Emily Jane swing by the Milk Factory for a beer, only to find it permanently closed, just moments after she’d floated the idea of opening a new venue to a friend.
The owner of Woolloongabba’s vintage store and cocktail bar, Can You Keep a Secret, went straight to the owners of the 130-year-old pub to enquire. “I had a number in my head which I needed to make it work [financially], and that’s exactly what they offered me for rent,” she tells Broadsheet. In early November, It’s Still a Secret opened in the heritage-listed South Brisbane building.
That’s after Jane, some helpful friends and a contractor spent five months renovating the interior. The layers of posters, paint and tiles from former tenants were stripped back to expose the brick walls, mid-century timber panelling and vintage German and Australian wallpaper.
“I was locked in here in a creative bubble,” says Jane, who began the process without a solid plan but with a strong eye for design, and an exceptional ability to collect and curate vintage wares (as anyone who has entered either of her venues can attest). The result is a retro-inspired bar and live music venue that feels a little like walking into someone’s ’70s-era home.
The bandroom remains intact, with an upgrade to the decor as well as the speaker system, which was fine-tuned to accommodate vinyl-spinning DJs, acoustic acts and large bands. Expect the same genres as you hear at Jane’s Woolloongabba venue – soul, funk, disco and house – but with more space comes the ability to cater to different appetites.
“I thought I was all over who was here [in Brisbane] and what music was available; I had no idea until opening this venue,” Jane says.
“Right now, more than ever, [the live music community] needs as much support as it can get.” There are plenty of ideas in the works for next year to bolster the Brisbane live music scene, too, with plans to refresh the war bunker out the back for gigs and other community-focused music events. “Basically, it’s all about community and the music, it’s not really about the booze.”
That said, the booze is no afterthought; there’s a selection of local craft beers (such as Newstead Brewing and Aether), boutique spirits and non-alcoholic drops. You won’t find a drinks list just yet; Jane prefers to let customers interact with the bar staff for recommendations.
The kitchen, which was still undergoing renos until now, opened on the weekend with caterer Church Mouse Cheese on board to plate up charcuterie, dips and toasties, as well as ’70s and ’80s classics such as cheese balls, fondue and cob loaves.
It’s Still a Secret, Jane says, is the embodiment of her own style and her “two great loves: vintage and music … and you too, Ernest”, she adds, addressing the six-month old pup on the couch next to her.
If you’re not catching a gig, you can bring your own dog along and plant yourself in a sunny spot in the greenery-filled, fuschia-pink courtyard.
It’s Still a Secret
48 Montague Rd, South Brisbane
Wed to Sun 4pm–late