1/356 Charles St, North Perth WA
Guests can go back to school at The Classroom, a quirky new bar in North Perth that showcases a delightful design theme and attention to detail. If ever you felt like drinking at school but were too well-behaved, a visit to The Classroom might be just the ticket. Mini retro desks and chairs, materials for colouring-in, a pinboard for the best drawings and reruns of It’s Academic – owners Daniel Sterpini and Adam Keane, from catering business Cocktail Gastronomy, went the extra mile to make the experience authentic.
Daniel explains that the search for a venue began when he and Adam wanted to find a base for their business operations, which already had an educational component – providing mixology classes and specialising in matching cocktails to food. When they found their site, the rest was history. “This is too good a location to do anything but a small bar,” Daniel remembers thinking. A similar match happened with their theme for the venue, which ended up aiding synergy between the two businesses: “Straight away we both thought, ‘school theme’, and we never looked back.”
“We really couldn’t understand why it hadn’t been done before,” says Daniel, who adds that one of the best things about a classroom theme was the scope of ideas to draw on. But in the end they settled on something between the 1960s and 1980s (“a time before melamine started being used to make desks,” he adds), which was an era familiar to the kids who became Daniel and Adam, and their target market.
BACK TO SCHOOL SPECIALS
Far and away, the defining challenge of The Classroom was sourcing its components. “We had to locate and source each and every item,” says Daniel. “We thought it might have been easy at the beginning… but the problem is that everything from that era has become vintage or a collector’s item.” eBay, Gumtree, auctions and spring cleans from local schools (especially those that received government funding for new equipment) provided the most help. The Classroom even sports a real school water fountain. “We could have gone out and bought one, but that went against what we were trying to achieve,” says Daniel. He is most proud of the old-school lockers that store liquor behind the bar, which he and Adam finally found at an auction yard in Melbourne. The whole process of approval for licensing and development applications took 14 months, which ended up being necessary to source all the elements they to create the experience they wanted. And the effort has been rewarded. The Classroom has queues out the door every Friday and Saturday night, and is busy throughout the week as well. “In our opening week we had two locals that came every single day and brought new people with them every single day to show off the new bar,” Daniel remarks. “Knowing that they are as proud as we are, that takes you aback a little.” Patrons start “acting like little kids again” and showing up in school uniforms, and plenty have written little notes of congratulations or drawings on the paper menus — the best ones go up on the pinboard in the main area.
Of course any modern classroom needs great AV, which was where Surround Sounds came in. The brief was to provide the needed technology but integrate it well enough that it did not detract from the retro classroom atmosphere. Eight flushmount Turbosound Impact 50T speakers were installed in the ceilings of the main area, and Flatline Acoustic speakers were installed in the restrooms to give guests an audio education, from science lectures to French lessons. Hanimex listening stations were sourced from real retro classrooms in Australia so that patrons at tables could listen in as well. Having a concrete floor presented a challenge — the audio had to be intelligible and patrons also needed to have a conversation — about their own school days, no doubt. “I’m all for minimalist style venues with hard and chic interiors, but we’ve come across many venue operators that don’t have any regard for the fact that punters won’t even be able to have a decent conversation in the place without shouting, hence a catch 22 situation of raising the entire ambient noise level beyond comprehension,” says Surround Sounds director Mark Jeisman. Mark also donated an old Peter’s Ice Cream enamel sign from his own high school — it can be found above the ‘canteen area’.
For a continued education, teacher’s pets can head along to a cocktail mixology or cooking class on Mondays. Daniel and Adam also did some fundraising for local schools, to get further into the spirit of things. The Classroom is expanding, too. Adam and Daniel have recently signed the lease on the shop next door, which will double the bar’s capacity with a new ‘teachers’ lounge’ (the teachers get a whiskey cabinet).
Daniel and Adam collaborated with architect Paul Starcevich and construction firm Intelligent Building Solutions, as well as local artist Stormie Mills, who created artworks for The Classroom including an image of a troublesome child writing lines. But unlike the subject of this artwork, it’s clear that Daniel and Adam’s bar is at the top of the class. – Lucie Robson