Local Spot: Tatler Bar in Sydney Is Where Creatives Hang Out
As part of our first ever major campaign — themed ‘For Locals Everywhere’ and appearing on buses and billboards nation-wide this summer — we shot four dizzyingly talented individuals at four of our favourite of Sydney’s locations. We photographed chef Mitch Orr at his restaurant ACME, musician Genesis Owusu at The Record Store, Olympic synchronized swimmer Olia Burtaev at The Old Clare Hotel, and finally, genre-defying musician Ecca Vandal at our favourite bar, Tatler.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be speaking to the owners and management of these iconic Sydney venues to work out exactly what makes them the places to be down under, and how they went about achieving that feat. How did they find the right mix of being the place to visit when you’re from out of town and the place to spend time at when you’re a real Sydney local?
First up, we chat to respected Sydney club and restaurant owner Tim Clark about Tatler, which has been repeatedly named the bar for creatives and personalities alike to hang out after hours. He and co-owner Brendan Watson relaunched the bar — where many a fashion and art party has taken place over the years — in 2013, taking it from strength to strength.
Image credit: Timeout.com
What is the key to making Tatler a space that locals feel comfortable to spend time at regularly?
I think staff play a huge role — people always want familiarity — and also ensuring that the menus, pricing and quality is in line with the area and what people expect. Locals need to know what they’re getting.
How do you make a bar a place that people want to stay?
There are a number of factors at play here: lighting, sound, furniture, and of course service. It’s having the right mix of those, and attention to detail never goes astray.
How do you make a bar the place that people want to come back to?
Consistency is important and it’s also something that’s difficult to maintain, but as I mentioned earlier it’s about familiarity. It’s just human nature for people to gravitate towards things they know. People always love to introduce friends to their secret spot, but they need it to live up the memories of previous visits.
What's more important — location or interior planning when it comes to having a successful bar, and why?
They both play a major role, however try dealing with location when all of a sudden an entire district is modified based on backwards legislation is difficult! Different locations have different attributes. Location selection has a lot to do with what your concept is and who your target market is.
What does one do to make a bar the destination for "the creative set" and "the who's who of Sydney", as two reviews have put it?
Tatler has been lucky enough to survive three decades, which is a lifetime for a Sydney venue. It was the original owner, his network and the way he set Tatler up that ensured it was a haven for creative, and location played a big role as the ABC was located just a stones throw away. We’ve not inherited all of that though — we’ve spent a long time re-building the venue so it can be a legitimate home for the creative set again. It wasn’t something we could just switch back on after the previous owner ran the place into the ground and modified all the unspoken rules associated with the club.
How nuanced is it getting the music right on different nights, appealing to different crowds, etc.? Is it intuitive or very planned?
Trying to please everyone is one of the hardest things. Another challenge is the fact the venue can fill up within 30mins with a complexly different crowd who are after something in particular. We have music policies in place and yes, they vary based on the night of the week and even the time of the evening.
Image credit: hiddencitysecrets.com.au
Since taking over Tatler, has there been any update in the way business and creating the feel of the place is approached?
Yes, in a big way. We completely changed the way the business was operating, which came at a huge expense, yet it’s paid dividends as the model has proven to be sustainable. A major factor was deciding to focus on a more mature market, one that weren’t completely wiped out when certain laws came into play. Now we’ve modified things even further by going members only Sun-Thursday, this was a part of the week that needed work and it just made sense that we gave ownership over this time to the creative industries once again. It was no easy feat though, and it’s taken months of planning to get to where we are now.
Your kitchen stays open until late — what's the thinking behind that? Why don't more places do it?
It’s incredibly hard to maintain and expensive hence why more venues don’t do it. We’ve got the ability to run food from the restaurant until 1am and later if we’re preparing food from Tatler. This is something that we’re scaling up as the operation demands it. We’re now playing around with a charcoal BBQ on the terrace every Monday and making it available for events and that’s been a very welcome addition!
What would you do differently if you could start over again? What would stay the same?
I wouldn’t change anything. We’re a product of our environment and we’ve developed in a way that’s given us personality and made us confident in our offer and positioning. I’d welcome a few million dollars and regular holidays however!