Perth’s vibrant pub scene was one of great success in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s. The Claremont (then called The Continental Hotel, or The Conti) on a Thursday night was the place to be seen, Saturday night was not complete without a pint, shooter and boogie at The Swanbourne and who can forget the ever-popular Sunday “sesh” at The Cott. Then, with a few irate resident complaints about littering, drunken antics and noise (especially if there was live music) many went up in smoke.
Since Perth’s liquor licensing laws relaxed allowing a movement of small bars to pop up all over the city, a new breed of drinking hole has emerged from the flames: enter the neighbourhood bar. These small, yet sophisticated drinking holes co-exist harmoniously with its residential neighbours and add a sense of community to its suburb, rather than being the nuisance of pubs past. Throw in a top-notch food offering and well-built, intelligent cocktails and wine list from uber experienced hooch slingers, and you’ve got happy locals frequently popping in for a bevvie and meal on a regular basis.
Wines of While owner Sam Winfield said he chose to open a small, more intimate venue that customers could feel they had some ownership over. The part-bottle-shop part-bar at the top of William Street, far from the hubbub of Northbridge, specialises in organic and natural wines serving up kick-ass Mediterranean style food.
“I felt a casual, unassuming and low intensity venue would make people feel at ease and would ultimately be easier to run,” he said.
“Being on the cusp of both a neighbourhood and entertainment area I thought would be appealing to people . . . close enough to home but out of the heady buzz of the CBD.
“Many customers feel comfortable to rock up in either track pants and thongs or a suit after work. That kind of feeling comes only when people feel some kind of ownership, which is great.”
Another power hospo couple taking a leap of faith within the small bar space is Tania Nicolo and Ryan Bookless. The husband-and-wife team own Monsterella in Wembley, arguably one of the best pizza and pasta joints in the city. Having grown up in the area, the couple saw an opportunity for a family dining pizza joint in 2016.
Their newest venture, Mummucc (meaning mother in Abruzzese), is just three doors down from Monsterella on Grantham Street and was originally ear-marked to be a holding station for the overflow of pizza and pasta patrons clamouring for a table but has now become its own entity.
“People, including us, want smaller, more boutique type venues. All of our favourite places that we like to visit in Australia and abroad are all on the smaller size,” Ms Nicolo said.
“We have created what we think all small bars should be . . . somewhere to have a drink but also be able to eat really well. It has always been in our family to feed people and that continues today with Mummucc and Monsterella with Mum making the pasta every day which is such a special and traditional element.
“It’s a cool neighbourhood bar in every sense of the word – where people can come regularly and feel that they get bang for their buck.”
Australian Hotels Association (WA) CEO Bradley Woods said that that shift in spending less but more regularly was one of the reasons for the small bar movement.
“The WA hospitality had undergone a significant expansion in recent years, with new venues across all license categories opening across Perth and regional WA,” he said.
“In some cases what we have seen is a new operator taking on the challenge of breathing new life into a venue.
“WA will always have a rich variety of pubs, taverns and bars – what the past few years have demonstrated clearly is that even in a challenging environment there is still significant confidence in the industry, with investments continuing to be made in new and existing properties across the state.”