It’s 10 days since Adam Barton last saw his kids. But then that’s what happens when you give yourself just 10 days to open a new bar.
Fortitude Valley icon The Bowery shook its last cocktails on January 26, the Sunday before last. On Thursday Barton and business partners Manny Sakellarakis and Harlen Pointing reopened the same room as Suzie Wong’s Good Time Bar, a Hawaiian-themed dive bar with a heavy focus on live music.
“We literally worked from 5am every day, doing 15 hours a day,” Barton says. “Yesterday we had a 10 or 15 tradies in here, some of my mates. It was crazy. But we did it, and no one thought we could.”
Talk of such a tight timeframe risks underselling the transformation. This definitely isn’t The Bowery anymore. The bar and its ceiling-high liquor shelves are still there, and the layout is more or less the same, but everything else has changed. The booths are gone, the front door has been shifted (and in a cute touch, now resembles the door of a cold room), and the front windows walled in and replaced by a light box. There are colourful prints everywhere, and the venue’s brick walls are now scattered with neon, photos and other knickknacks Barton collected during late-night Ebay sessions.
It will bend the minds a little of Valley regulars, but also illustrates that The Bowery, despite its 16 years of history, was still just a custodian of this space. Part of what made that bar so special was simply how good the room is.
“Everyone who has come in has said, ‘It’s not The Bowery anymore’,” Barton says. “Which for me was really important. That was the biggest compliment … There’s nothing like this in Brisbane. We never want to copy anyone else.”
“What we do is escapism,” venue manager Michael Pattison adds. “At Brooklyn Standard [the CBD live-music basement bar co-owned by Barton and Sakellarakis], you escape into a basement. Here, it’s a bit more of an oasis [in the Valley].”
For drinks, the aim is to get to the bar, get served and get back on the dance floor. Don’t expect anything too complicated with the cocktails – just fun concoctions with names such as Fizzy Bubbly Boi and Unsolicited Life Advice. The beer taps pour Australian craft brews as well as a clutch of US imports, including Hawaiian brewer Kona’s Big Wave golden ale. For wines, a relatively straightforward list covers most varietals, with nothing over $85.
In terms of music, Pattison says you can expect a similar mix to Brooklyn Standard, with the more esoteric weeknight artists giving way to party bands on the weekends.
“People can come in, have a drink and know they’ll hear a few classics,” Barton says. “It provides a different element of the live music hub in this part of the Valley. You have The Sound Garden opening up, Fortitude Music Hall, and from one venue to the next it will be completely different – hopefully we can all bounce off each other.”
Suzie Wong’s Good Time Bar
678 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley
(07) 3252 0202
Wed to Sun 5pm–late