You wouldn’t know just by looking at Anthony Kaplan that he opened his first bar in Bondi 10 years ago. You’d be even more surprised to learn that The Shop and Wine Bar wasn’t actually his first. In fact, he owned a cafe a few years before, where Brown Sugar now sits. When he closed it and went travelling, he swore he would never own a cafe again.
Now the owner of three more venues – including The Corner House, Panama House and the summer pop-up [Garden Bar](http://www.broadsheet.com.au/sydney/arts-and-entertainment/article/opera-houses-summer-playground at the Sydney Opera House (now Corner House at the House) – he wouldn’t have it any other way. The Shop and Wine Bar, which is equal parts sidewalk and indoor cafe, with a cheerily painted shopfront, was one of the first venues that could be classified as a ‘small bar’. Locals loved it from the beginning and claimed ownership of it in its early days. “I was struggling to think of a name, and locals kept asking, ‘When are you opening the shop?’, ‘What are you calling the shop?’ and it stuck,” Kaplan says. “A lot of locals just call it the wine bar too.”
Being one of the first to open a small bar in Bondi was no mean feat. It took two years for Kaplan to get a liquor license, far longer than it takes bars today. “It was a different era,” Kaplan explains. “The big hotels had a lot more power and influence with the local police and councils.” Six or seven years ago there were rumours that the larger venues in Bondi tried to block new bars opening, to maintain their stranglehold on the area. As we know now, their efforts weren’t successful for long. “The proof is in the pudding when you look around now. Sydney’s exploded with small bars and the big pubs are struggling. Even the pubs are trying to have that small-bar feel.”
Bondi in particular has experienced a resurgence in the last couple of years. “There are micro hubs all over Bondi – Bondi Road, Glenyar Avenue, Hall Street. Seven years ago there were two coffee machines on Glenyar Avenue. Now there are 14.”
Kaplan has contributed significantly to creating a Bondi identity with his restaurants. Opening The Corner House on Bondi Road in 2010, chef and business partner Brent Mills created a casual, seasonal, Italian menu with an outdoor area for balmy nights. Kaplan’s third venue, Panama House, repeats the category-defying restaurant/cafe/bar; a casual, breezy place at which it’s hard to get a table at most times of the day.
How else has Bondi changed? There are fewer backpackers because of the increase in rental prices but the bronzed, barefoot beauties that call Bondi home have remained consistent. But that’s what we come to Bondi for, a place where it always feels like holidays and everyone is good looking.
Kaplan and his partners opened a home away from home with Garden Bar, a pop-up over summer at Sydney Opera House that brought Bondi to the harbour with morning yoga classes, fresh coconuts, pallet seating and white umbrellas. “That’s got to be one of my proudest moments – winning that tender,” Kaplan says. “We always felt we were high risk for them, but the Sydney Opera House has a clear vision of what it wants.” With plans in the works for another pop-up during Vivid Festival, we have high hopes that Kaplan will keep opening pockets of Bondi cool so we can get a seaside dose in the inner city.