If there’s one thing Sydney seems to love, it’s walking down a flight of stairs to get a drink. Baxter Inn, Frankie’s Pizza, Stitch, Employees Only, Palmer & Co and Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern all put your quads to work before they put a cocktail in your hand.
Now the three founders of Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern (who met working at Baxter Inn) are about to cut the ribbon on Sydney’s latest underground beverage dispensary, and things are going to get sexy.
Where Rascal offers – in co-founder Charlie Lehmann’s words – a “five-star dive-bar experience”, the imminent Double Deuce Lounge presents a cocktail lounge dripping with “’70s porn chic”, complete with an intimate, furry-walled “kissing booth”.
Beneath an unoccupied restaurant space on Bridge Street (formerly Bouche on Bridge), Double Deuce Lounge – named after the dive bar in the 1989 Patrick Swayze movie Road House – is the second venue from the crew behind Rascal, which has remained one of the CBD’s most popular bars since its opening in 2014.
“I think it’s just a coincidence the new place is downstairs,” Lehmann says. “There’s a lot of downstairs spaces that don’t get utilised anymore, like office buildings where nobody’s using the basement. Unless they’re getting on the piss.”
Only one kilometre from its sister venue (which is on the corner of Park and Elizabeth Streets), Lehmann says the new location – among the banks and right near the ASX – feels like it’s in a different city. But the atmosphere won’t affect their approach to building a loyal clientele.
“It’s important to know your area and know your customer, but at the same time you need to dictate the product,” explains Lehmann. “You give them what they want but also build something that might change their tastes.”
They reckon the answer to that is a cosy plush lounge with leather-lined booths, moody lighting and plenty of blond timber. While “porn chic” is only a loosely guiding aesthetic concept, there might be a framed vintage Playboy cover or two appearing on the walls.
It’s a room in which Lehmann hopes the finance set will feel “really sexy and really bougie”. He plans on substituting his signature Rascal overalls with a safari suit at Double Deuce.
There’s a 10-drink cocktail list of original creations concocted by head bartender Oliver Churchill (Bulletin Place, Dead Ringer), as well as subtle plays on old classics. (Lehmann hints at a Cosmopolitan “that we’ve twisted up”.)
Beer will come exclusively in cans, and while Rascal’s “shit tinny” (anything from VB to Tooheys New) won’t make it to Bridge Street, Lehmann promises at least one easy-drinking lager.
Wines have been selected in collaboration with Enmore’s P&V Wine & Liquor Merchants; the 16-strong list combines a few of the natural bottles for which the wine retailer is known with some retro classics.
“In trying to adhere to that ’70s theme, we wanted to include some burgundy and that sort of thing,” Lehmann says. “We’ll have five or six wines by the glass, including an orange and rosé.”
Despite the recent opening of Mary’s Circular Quay around the corner, Double Deuce won’t feature the same on-call burger delivery service from Mary’s that Rascal does, due to the lease’s vague restriction that “no significant food” be served. Instead, expect plates of cheese cubes, cabanossi and Jatz crackers.
Just as retro but far less cheesy will be the funk and soul soundtrack, pumping artists like Curtis Lee Mayfield, Gladys Knight, Herbie Hancock and Otis Redding.
And then there’s that kissing booth: a small, enclosed area with a table and a Muppet-haired wall barely big enough for two people. “We had that idea when we were pissed,” Lehmann admits.
As for when the venue will open, Lehmann is hopeful that the administrative machinations that are keeping the ready-to-go bar shuttered will be resolved soon.
“We applied for all the things you have to in January, but it turns out they don’t know how to sign the piece of paper that gives you the liquor licence,” he says. “We’re sitting around waiting for that. Everything else is pretty much good to go.”
Double Deuce Lounge is slated to open ASAP; check Instagram for updates.
Double Deuce Lounge
6 Bridge Street, Sydney