Beyonce’s influence on pop culture is so widespread that she has become the inspiration for a combination bar, restaurant and nightclub venue in Sydney.
Originally opened in 2017 but relaunched in May after a $1 million renovation, ‘The Carter’ is full of ‘hidden messages’ and tributes to the pop-star and her rapper husband Jay-Z.
It features many references to the album they released together titled ‘The Carters’ a giant sign reading ‘Be Your Fierce’, a hot pink neon ‘XOXO’ lights and Louis Vuitton carpet.
The bar has a champagne list that the two stars would be happy with and American diner-style food, while upstairs an entire mezzanine level is dedicated to Beyonce’s ‘Hold Up’ video.
The venue has taken a creative, themed approach in order to stand out in the CBD and is one of a number of new Sydney bars that are trying to establish a customer base in the face of higher licensing fees, lock-out laws and competition.
Chady Khouzame, co-owner of The Carter, said that Sydney’s lockout laws had forced bars to adapt to a changing clientele and that The Carter, designed by Melbourne-based Blackmilk Design, was an attempt to bring “a piece of Melbourne to Sydney”.
“I think the lockout laws have killed the nightlife a bit and nightlife is changing. We wanted to create more of a lifestyle venue, where it fits in a restaurant, nightclub and bar all in one, to create a different experience and somewhere people can make memories.”
Bar owners also have to be prepared to refresh a design as consumer taste and popular culture changes, according to Mr Khouzame.
“I think gone are the days where you can build a venue and it will last 10-15 years with the same fit-out, so for us it’s about evolving and moving with the times and thinking about what people want.”
Mr Khouzame said that he was inspired by Jay-Z and Beyonce’s “big direction and ambition and their constant push for raising the bar, with even their music videos and business dealings.”
In Newtown, which is outside the city’s lock-out zone, owner of Copenhagen-themed Tandem Bar, Peter Lynn, has just introduced a full aquavit menu.
The inspiration to open his own bar last October came when he was bartending in Denmark and also wanted to give a nod to his mum, who is Danish.
“You can’t just open up a bar and expect people to walk in the door, you have to have a creative attempt,” Lynn said.
“What you’re opening has to tell a story, there has to be a cohesion there, things have to make sense, and that translates to pitching it and selling it – if you have a good story you have to be able to tell that story to Sydney people.”
Lynn said Tandem chose to take a minimal marketing approach and focus on the product, which has paid off: “We had the highest quality ingredients, we had a pretty standard price with really nice service, but it still takes a long time to do it well, because so many people are, I don’t want to say fickle, but they tend to want to follow the trends and they tend to follow what they can see in online publications and opening up.
“I feel like people are trying to differentiate themselves and maybe trying to find niches, but they have to have a reason why they are there.”
Another approach that venues are taking is what hospitality company Funlab terms ‘competitive socialising’.
“We play in the competitive socialising space, which means engaging in a fun, competitive activity in an immersive environment,” said Funlab chief executive Michael Schreiber, adding “themed bars that rely [solely] on a theme will come and go. Themes are one dimensional and become passé.”
Funlab, the team behind Strike Bowling and Holey Moley mini-golf, has just opened another Sydney venue – a retro-themed speakeasy named B. Lucky & Sons, located in Moore Park’s Entertainment Quarter.
Trading until 11pm weeknights and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, the bar boasts alcoholic bubble tea and arcade games including Mario Kart, Daytona as well as updates of Pac Man and Space Invaders.
“We would describe the interior design as retro futuristic mashing-up traditional English pub with Hong Kong underground bar and casino,” Mr Schreiber said.
“We think competitive socialising experiences are here to stay. While we may have a theme, it is not the predominant reason for a visit.
Elsewhere in the city an Australiana themed bar ‘Redfern Surf Club’ hit the shores of Redfern earlier this year, and a dedicated ‘Hummus Bar’ has just opened doors in Darlinghurst.
Themed bars are increasingly being opened as pop-ups in conjunction with promotional campaigns.
Later in May a Pokemon-themed bar serving Pokemon-themed burgers and cocktails will be popping up, as part of the release of the film Detective Pikachu.
An Aladdin-themed bar is opening up inside the Grounds of Alexandria, while ‘Aperol Stations’ popped up in multiple locations over Summer.
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