It’s a Wednesday night at the new Lulie Street Tavern and owners Jon Farrell and Brendan Kennedy are sipping pints of lime and soda. Both of them came down sick after a marathon week moving furniture, glassware, memorabilia, stock and the hefty bar from their old site across the road, which will soon be re-developed.
“It broke all our bodies, moving. If we’d had 10 days it would have been great, but doing it in six was epic,” Farrell says. “It didn’t help that on the opening night we had about 10 pints of Guinness each.”
That’s right, Guinness. There’s a tap dedicated to the black stuff – one of several new additions to the bar, which has been renamed to just “Lulie”. Some are subtle: air-conditioning, polished-timber floors, nicer toilets, a larger back bar.
Other changes are more noticeable. You no longer have to wait for your salty, semolina-dusted Rita’s Cafeteria pizza to be run across the road – it’s made in the dedicated takeaway kitchen next door and passed through a window cut into the party wall. Burgers are delivered from sister business Kelso’s a short walk away.
There are also several new spaces: a big alfresco area that faces Johnston Street, a narrow courtyard for smokers, and an intimate side room. The building also has a former money vault into which the duo installed 12 seats and a small bar. The vault will be used for tastings and events.
Other than that, it’s business as usual. The main room is almost exactly the same size and shape as the old one, and it’s populated with the same shit furniture (their word) from Kardinia RSL and an old pizza shop in Frankston. Tom Petty is still on the stereo. The bar is littered with peanut shells. The crowd is totally relaxed. And yes, dogs are allowed.
“We couldn’t not have dogs in here,” Farrell says. “It’s part of the fabric of the bar.”
The guys didn’t want to change too much, both for their own sake and that of their nervous regulars. “We got lucky with the area here,” Farrell says. “We probably didn’t anticipate we’d make so many friends and have such a great local, loyal customer base.”
He and Kennedy are excited about the prospect of a long, happy future with these people. “It’s what I like about bars overseas – they have a history. Five, 10, 15, 20 years,” Farrell says. “That’s the dream, that Lulie sustains in the neighbourhood for that long.”
225 Johnston Street, Abbotsford
0403 452 005
Mon to Thu 4pm–11pm
Fri & Sat 12pm–1am