The Bourbon:

22 Darlinghurst Rd, Potts Point NSW
(02) 9035 8888 or

Along with pricing, ambience and accessibility, Cheung is hoping it will capture the discerning demographic around Potts Point.

Creating the ambience to do so, was Kelly’s job. Kelly has a sophisticated understanding of how hospitality design works.

“The defining factor in hospitality design,” Kelly said, “is understanding how the space works for different customers.  The space has to allow staff to serve different areas and clientele seamlessly. The relationship between the spaces and traffic circulation has to work to both showcase what’s on offer and make service and product easily accessible and visible.”

At the Bourbon, the food is showcased via the open kitchen at the entrance, whetting patrons appetites as make their way past before meandering off into the different zones for dining, drinking casually at the bar, listening to music or people watching on the open terrace while being able to move freely between zones and mingle in the process.

According to Kelly the design has to create different moods for different activities by different people in an open plan. He said, “The one space has to provide a variety of options.”

The way to achieve that he believes is through materials, texture and lighting. He said, “You have to understand how the materials work with the light, particularly low light to shimmer and shine at night creating mood and atmosphere and how for instance polished brass works against raw brick to create contrast and texture. `Similarly the colour palette and strategy is designed to cue a response. It has to be vibrant. It has to make you feel like letting your hair down.”

While hospitality design needs a greater degree of theatricality than other genres he said, “the trick is to use materials that people can relate to and use details they have an understanding of. Spaces need to be recognisable without being themed.”

The other distinctive factor in hospitality design particularly for licenced premises he said is the need to script control into the design.

“Kings Cross is all based on control. Our entrance strategies at the Bourbon, which will have a capacity for 1000 patrons, work so that the control point is the lift lobby which everyone passes through to get to whichever space they are destined for.”

“There is a second direct entrance for gaming patrons directly to the outdoor gaming room. The gaming patron is not a Bourbon patron, they are different markets so don’t mix.”

A project like the Bourbon can make or break a design company, according to Kelly. It has taken a two-year design and build period and was expensive at $4,500 per square metre or $7 million in round figures. The high cost reflects the fact that Kelly has designed all the structural work for future construction phases including the basement and the first and second floors – including rumoured roof top.

Such an approach is only risky according to Kelly if Cheung were to go beyond the current licence or sell short term. Given Cheung’s seven-year + plan for the Bourbon, Kelly believes, there is little danger of that. In the mean time, he said the 30 machines in the gaming room are a significant money-spinner and support the ground floor to stand- alone until the other floors open.

Early indications are that locals are excited about the Bourbon re-opening. Kelly said, “Everyone is coming in for a look. Lots of people are eating. I think people are genuinely happy about someone investing back into the area for the long term.”

There is no doubt the locals feel a sense of community ownership where the venue is concerned as a kind of sacred – or more correctly, sacrilegious – site and want to be a part of what is happening there. The October opening of the basement cocktail lounge is greatly anticipated. The Basement was always where one got into the most trouble –a little more elegantly after October, one gathers.

Cheung said, “Potts Point is one of the highest density demographics in the country but until now it hasn’t visited this precinct as much as it should, given that it is composed of people, typically 30+ years old with high incomes who eat out on average five nights a week.”

Part of the reason for that is perhaps, perception. Cheung said, “Pubs are known for volume, alcohol and gaming. Hotels are moving away from that as a core business. The mood is changing along with the licencing laws. The trend is towards safe, friendly, compliant venues. There has been a licence freeze in Kings Cross since 2009 and venues cannot serve drinks in glassware or shots or double shots after midnight.”

Given that, it would be easy to argue that the problems in the Cross, when they do arise, are no longer primarily alcohol-related. What they are primarily related to, Cheung has strong views upon – but that’s a whole other story, which Venue will canvas in coming issues.

Suffice to say, as Cheung did, “The Cross attracts 22,000 visitors every Friday and Saturday night. Hooliganism is well behind us. There are challenges in the Cross, not isolated to the Bourbon. We, and the Bourbon are part of the solution in meeting those challenges.”

One day at a time, Mr Cheung.

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