On Saturday nights the co-owner and manager of Jimmy’s Tap & Barrel is more likely to be found in a pair of wrestling tights than behind his new bar.
“The Smash Hit” Joel Bateman – as he’s known in the ring – launched his Ascot Vale bar in February, named after his adopted senior greyhound, Jimmy.
“We were going to call it the ‘Armbar’ [a wresting move] as a wrestling joke but ... it was only going to make me laugh, so I went, ‘Screw it, I’m going to name it after my dog’.”
Jimmy’s Tap & Barrel has a focus on craft beer, and Bateman has already hosted a launch for New South Wales brewery Batch. Now he’s planning a Pirate Life tap takeover.
At its core, Bateman says, Jimmy’s is about a good drink in an unpretentious environment.
“It’s meant to be a nice relaxed place,” he says.
Formerly the Reunion Bar, its previously-bright red decor has been toned down. An exposed brick wall leads your eye to a giant skull mural on the back wall, which was painted by tattoo and graffiti artist Adrian Dominic. Bateman gave him free reign on the design. There are plenty of places to perch at the bar for a chat, and the raised back half of the room creates a division for quieter conversation. A beer garden is in planning, and the footpath tables are great for watching the happenings on Union Road.
The bar carries whisky from Tasmania's Nant and Lark distilleries, and Scottish brands such as Benromach and Port Askaig. Gin is almost all Australian with bottles from Animus and Antipodes.
Although he’s partial to the Langmeil shiraz from Barossa Valley, Bateman calls wine his “Achilles heel”. He’s outsourced that to supplier Negotiants.
Most customers will be unaware of Bateman’s alter ego, but he says fellow wrestlers often stop in for a chat. He’s putting together a wrestling-influenced event called JimmyMania on March 31. It will feature eight local brewers in a beer showdown (he’s asked them to come dressed as wrestlers) and he’s screening Wrestlemania 33 on April 2.
Bateman has a “hard-core” wrestling match, which doesn’t adhere to the usual rules, coming up. It includes the use of objects such as cinder blocks and thumbtacks. The tacks don’t bother him, but the blocks are a concern.
“They’re really hard,” he says.
Jimmy’s Tap & Barrel
164 Union Road, Ascot Vale
(03) 8597 5750
Wed & Thu 12pm–11pm
Fri & Sat 12pm–1am