Perth’s first permanent floating venue, The Raft, will drop anchor in the Swan River in September. The old barge turned 445-square-metre party pontoon will take in views of the CBD, Elizabeth Quay and Kings Park.
“Unless you’re lucky enough to own a boat or have a nice friend that invites you onto theirs, you can’t access this part of the river,” says Katie Chrystal, who will operate The Raft with her brother Dan Chrystal.
The siblings have worked in the hospitality industry for years – Katie in marketing for Bread and Circuses Group (owners of Mrs Browns and Propeller in North Fremantle, among others) and Dan in Melbourne, where he opened Stand-Up Cafe, before selling it to move back to Perth and focus on their new venture.
“Our family business Caterlink [which supplies commercial kitchen equipment] has given us a great foundation into the back end of hospitality, but Dan and I have always worked and been more interested in the front end of the business, the running of events and hospitality venues,” says Katie.
The old working barge took three weeks to travel from Darwin to Kailis Marine in Fremantle, where it’s currently docked. It’s still under construction but will soon transform into a sleek, spacious venue available for private bookings of up to 250 people (though Katie says she and Dan are “throwing around” ideas to open as a public space down the track).
Guests will meet at Barrack St Jetty in the CBD before being transported to The Raft by a private tender that transfers 40 people at a time. (It’ll travel between the jetty and the venue all night by request.)
The siblings want event hosts to see the space as a blank canvas and are keeping the interior minimal, letting the river views take centre stage. A retractable roof and blinds allow the space to be fully open on a balmy summer night, but also closed if required. There will also be two-metre porthole windows that look across the Swan River towards South Perth.
Interior designer Gabrielle Scott (Guildhall Event Space, Porch & Parlour) has drawn from WA’s coastal landscape with a deep-ocean-blue tiled bar and sandy stone benchtops. She’s working closely with design and production studio Remington Matters (who have worked on fit-outs for Panama Social, Tiny’s and Someday Coffee), who are adding custom-built modular furniture that can be stacked away.
The drinks list will include local beers and wines from Margaret River and the Perth Hills, and caterers Heyder & Shears will tailor a cocktail or sit-down menu for every event, focusing on seasonal West Australian produce. Local suppliers include Shark Bay Prawns, The Mushroom Guys and Abrolhos Octopus.
The Raft will open on the Swan River in September.