Employees Only opened in New York’s West Village in 2004 and ever since has been regarded as one of the best bars in the world. The reputation is thanks to its well crafted but evolving cocktail list and white-jacket staff, which the World’s 50 Best Bars (an annual list that ranks bars around the world) says makes guests feel like “rock stars”.
It also says, “The magic of Employees Only is that it is a quintessentially New York place.”
The Sydney version of the venue will have some of the original’s signature cocktails, serve French-inspired New York-bistro food and include elements of Art Deco design – all signatures of the expanding Employees Only empire (there are now bars in LA, Singapore and Hong Kong). But Anna Fang, the venue manager, is clear this new outpost will be distinctly Sydney.
“In Singapore and Hong Kong we replicated the New York bar, but if you did the same here it would be a bit weird,” she says. “We’ll cater a lot more to what the Sydney market wants and be less New York in style.”
When asked to explain further, she says: “When we went to LA, we didn’t just open a tweaked small speakeasy exported from New York, because LA doesn’t want that. They want to see something new. The Sydney market is similar.”
While the Employees Only team isn’t giving away too much info, we know the new bar will be on Barrack Street, near Martin Place in the CBD and will accommodate 200 people, 120 seated. The interior design is by Tim Leveson, who is behind The Sandwich Shop at Steam Mill Lane and The Collector Store at Barangaroo, among many other projects.
There will also be a couple of the bar’s well-known cocktails on the list. The Amelia, with vodka, elderflower liquor, pureed blackberries and fresh lemon, will be there, as will the Billionaire, with absinthe, high-proof bourbon and house-made pomegranate grenadine.
The Sydney version is being run by Dushan Zaric, one of the guys who set up the original New York venue with Henry La Fargue, Igor Hadzismajlovic, Jason Kosmas and Bill Gilroy. He’s been making trips to Sydney to help with the set-up, bringing along Robert Krueger as principal bartender, who will be in charge of pulling together the drinks menu. Krueger was the bar manager in NYC and worked in venues such as Brooklyn’s Extra Fancy and Tribeca’s Macao Trading Co.
“It’s going to have those large curves and sophisticated lighting. It's going to be great, but at the moment we’re also concentrating on pleasing the Sydney market,” says Fang.
Employees Only is slated to open in September on Barrack Street, Sydney.