From bartender to GM: five weeks in with Double Deuce Lounge’s Alicia Clarke

“I don’t think I slept for a week,” Alicia says, of a busy start to the role.

From bartender to GM: five weeks in with Double Deuce Lounge’s Alicia Clarke
Alicia Clarke at Double Deuce Lounge in Sydney. Photo: Boothby

What does the general manager of a bar do? That depends: for some venues, the GM role is a daywalking, nine to five affair; at other, smaller places, like Sydney cocktail bar Double Deuce Lounge where Alicia Clarke is five weeks into her tenure as general manager, it’s a more hands-on experience.

I’ve long admired the way Alicia approaches her work: she’s a calm and welcoming presence whenever you descend the stairs to Double Deuce Lounge.

And she’s got a knack for both drinkmaking and naming. Alicia’s drink, Two In The Pink — a Milk Punch-style of drink, with rhubarb-infused vodka, strawberry and vanilla syrup, Select Aperitivo and coconut kefir — was a high climber at the 2023 Drink of the Year Awards last November, landing at number nine on the Top 50.

Alicia picked up the role from outgoing general manager, Claudia Morgan, in late December, with the organisation and hosting of a high profile bar takeover at the bar being one of the first items on her new agenda.

That takeover? It was only Attaboy, the work-renowned New York bar from Michael McIllroy and ex-pat Australian Sam Ross, which occupies the space where the seminal Milk & Honey once operated. Sam Ross was in town for the takeover, too, along with general manager Haley Traub.

So, no pressure to be at one’s best, right?

Below, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, I speak to Alicia about making the step up from senior bartender to general manager, what the role of GM is like in a small but influential quality cocktail bar, and what has kept her at Double Deuce Lounge for four years.

Alicia Clarke at Double Deuce Lounge in Sydney. Photo: Boothby
Alicia Clarke at Double Deuce Lounge in Sydney. Photo: Boothby

Sam Bygrave: Alicia — what’s your official title?

Alicia Clarke: General manager.

What does the day to day of the general manager of Double Deuce Lounge look like? How many weeks have you been in the role now?

Five weeks. [It’s] basically keeping the venue upright. Making sure we have everything in stock, which has taken me a few weeks — but I think I’m there now. We’ve been organising takeovers. We’ve got the birthday coming up in June as well, our fifth birthday.


Yeah. End of June, 27th. [And I’m] trying to organise some exciting things in the next few months, while putting out the [new] menu last week and then... yeah, the Attaboy takeover.

What was it like doing the Attaboy takeover early on in the role?

I kept on telling everyone that in January, just... I was along for the ride. It was just happening and I was there for it.


Because we had a week and a half notice for the takeover, which was totally fine. We were happy to do it — we were ecstatic to do it. But it was just... every single day. I don’t think I slept for a week. And then they came in and three hours later it was over. And we all went home and we were done. But it was a really cool experience, especially being so new in the job as well.

I was looking at it going, is it always going to be like this? But it’s obviously not because not everyone gets to do an Attaboy takeover when they’ve been in a job for three weeks.

How’s the job compared to what you thought it was going to be?

It’s pretty close to what I was expecting coming into it.

You’ve been here for a while now too.

This month is my four year anniversary, yeah. So it’s been a while. I told the boys [owners Sebastian Cosmo Soto, Charlie Lehmann, and Dardan Shervashidze] that I’d take a little while to think about taking the job but the second I said that I’m pretty sure I had mentally taken it already. I just wanted to make them sweat a little bit.

Fair enough!

But, you know, coming into it, it’s pretty much exactly what I thought it would be. Just a few more responsibilities here and there. Still bartending — nothing much has changed. A place this size, you can’t afford to have a large staff, right? We’re still a small team, regardless.

Alicia Clarke. Photo: BoothbyAlicia's drink landed at number 9 on the Boothby Top 50 Drinks of the Year in 2023. Photo: Boothby
Alicia's drink landed at number 9 on the Boothby Top 50 Drinks of the Year in 2023. Photo: Boothby

How do you approach leading the team in that respect?

Because it is such a small team, you’re working alongside each other all the time. And you want to keep everyone happy and you want to keep the bar to the standards that you’re used to as well, which has been so important here — really high standards behind the bar and on the other side of the bar. It is definitely a learning curve for me. Cause I don’t like yelling at people. I don’t like getting cranky. Not that I have to.

I’ve never really considered myself a manager mentally. I prefer to be a shitkicker. I prefer to get behind the bar and do the hard yards. Mainly because I despise emails.

How much is email as part of the job now though?

Oh it’s... A lot of emails. Especially around this time of year because everyone’s gearing up for the productivity side of it. Like 8th of January when everyone went back to work after annual leave it was... I got bombarded.

The first week was really easy because I wasn’t getting any emails and I was like, this job’s so easy! What was I worried about? And then the 8th of January, just every day.

I try and keep it very compact the amount of time that I’m actually focusing on emails because I do have more stuff that I need to be doing around here, and I would rather be doing, but I’m trying to compartmentalise and leave it at like the start of the week and the end of the week. And then that’s it. Just get it done as soon as soon and as quick as possible.

You’ve got to have your brain across a greater variety of areas in the business than you did before, right?

Yeah, 100%, and I’m sleeping so much better for it. She says, with a big scarred sarcastic tone. And bags under her eyes.

What are your hopes for what you wanna do this year with Deuce? How are you approaching the year?

I definitely wanna start doing more takeovers, just building the community around that a lot more. Obviously keeping a good schedule of cocktail menus coming out, doing little parties, just keeping it fun. Not taking ourselves too seriously. It’s keeping it interesting, keeping it fun, always have something going on, something on the cards.

I think it’s important to have things that you talk about regularly.

Exactly. I want to make the birthday real big too. This is the first one we’ve been able to celebrate since we opened. We’ve never had a birthday here. The first one, COVID.


Second one, COVID restrictions. So we were only allowed 20 people in here, so there was no point.

Third, COVID, the fourth one, I think it just rolled around too quickly after trying to get back on our feet.

You probably had other things to focus on.

We had a lot of other things to focus on and then all of a sudden it was the birthday so we just had a couple of bottles of champagne and left it at that.

At Double Deuce Lounge, the general manager works in service. Photo: Boothby
At Double Deuce Lounge, the general manager works in service. Photo: Boothby

What’s your favourite thing about Double Deuce Lounge — what has kept you here the last four years and is keeping you here the whole time?

Don’t make me say it.

Say it, what is it? You’re not gonna say the boys, are you?

The boys [the owners].

Are you worried about losing your job or something?

I have been through enough bars and enough companies in my career that I’ve seen the best and I’ve seen the worst. And I’ve worked for enormous companies who have treated me like shit, and I’ve worked for really small companies that have treated me horribly — or really well, [but] it just never really meshed.

To work for a small company that is really, really good to me — like, I walked in here and immediately felt at home. My aspirations when I moved to Sydney were to work at Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern [the owners’ other bar]. They were like, nah, [and] sent me down here. But I was a regular here before I started. I just love the feel of the bar. It’s just so comfortable.

I’ve never worked in a venue longer than two years and then I got to two years and it felt like a flash. They’re just extremely supportive, extremely understanding. They’ve treated me very well since being here and they tell me they’re proud of me all the time and it’s really cute.

I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to capture the look on your face that you had when you said that last part in text but I’ll do my best.

They’re just good dudes.