Small Bars 101 Forum

(6pm 12 June 2012, Customs House)

Hello, everyone, welcome to our forum. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge people of the 200 nationalities who live in our city.

It's really exciting to see the level of interest from all of you as we start to create a new, more eclectic and sophisticated night-time city.

Prior to 2008, the opportunities in the city were rather depressingly limited. The beer barns ruled, characterless, loud and often aggressively so. It was pretty much a mono-culture, dictated by the high cost of a licence.

But there was a groundswell of revolt happening; people wanted other choices and groups like Raise the Bar emerged.

As Lord Mayor, I have always wanted to maximise people's choices, and as an Independent MP, I was able to put a bill to Parliament that resulted in the liquor laws being changed to allow for a $500 general bar licence.

The idea was to have small-scale owner-operators turning neglected spaces and places into quirky, individualistic places where people could meet, have a drink and some nibbles, even read a book, if they wanted!

The need was definitely out there: in that short space of time, we've seen over 55 bars open - at first in Surry Hills, but increasingly, in Redfern, Chippendale and the city centre.

The great thing to report is that all are doing really well.

However, we think most would-be operators still need information and support, which is why we're continuing to run these workshops. In one year alone, three workshops attracted over 400 attendees.

But there is still scope right across the local government area for people with the right ideas and right approach to create a successful new small bar.

One of the interesting aspects is that across the city, small bar owners are collaborating and working together to create this new scene. They're certainly being effective and Sydney's small bar scene has received enormous coverage, both local and in such renowned international newspapers as Britain's Financial Times and The Guardian and The New York Times.

Tonight we have Martin O'Sullivan and Belinda Lai from Grasshopper in Temperance Lane who will give you some insights into the joys, and the pitfalls, of making a small bar work.

Thank you all for your interest, and for those of you who do go on to open a small bar, I wish you every success.

Thank you.