The Brisbane bar owner talks about his new bars, Queens and Kings.
The pandemic has not been an easy time for many bartenders. Multiple snap lockdowns have meant that what is often pretty insecure work has become even more unpredictable, and a lack of hours makes it harder to pay bills. That's something which prompted Brisbane bartender and bar owner Kyle Weir to hold a fundraising event for bartenders tomorrow.
The idea, he says, is “to do 10 hours, 10 DJ sets, to raise $10,000.”
Weir, along with a host of other Brisbane DJs, will be streaming from midday Wednesday 11 August, all with the aim of raising money for bartenders who have been doing it tough.
“It’s for hospitality industry members for if they are struggling — it’s not a handout — if they are in a really shitty space, mentally and financially and everything else that comes with losing hours or your whole income,” Weir says. “Sign up, using as secure, private google form, and then tune in and have a dance and watch us try to raise 10K.”
It’s live streamed, so if you’re in lockdown in Sydney or Melbourne, you can get on and enjoy it too.
“I got the help of a local Brisbane DJ called Jimmy Ellis, he worked for Liquid for a long time so he’s been in the industry,” says Weir. “He’s a weapon of a DJ, and he’s helping out to curate some local Brisbane DJs.”
“I reached out to a few bartenders and bar owners that know how to — or think we know how to — DJ. Jacob Cohen from Savile, Aidan Biers from Black Bear Lodge, and a couple off guys from Warehouse 25 which is a gin distillery, underground rave place in Milton,” he says.
Weir has been busy over the last 12 months. In September last year he launched Commercial Road Public Bar, a wine bar with a lot of character. He’s since shut that down to open two Fortitude Valley bars this year: Queens, and Kings.
Below, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, Weir tells Sam Bygrave what the two bars are all about, and how he went about it during a turbulent time.
We had Commercial Road Public Bar, which we opened in September  - it was never a long term thing.
I signed a lease before Covid existed, then it started popping up across the world. It was a little bit worrying seeing what was happening in Europe and Asia.
We did a lot of work on the space before Covid. I backed out of the five year lease on the space and we went into a three month by three month agreement.
We opened in September, and it went nuts for about four months, and we were outgrowing the space — it was a neighbourhood bar, it wasn’t rowdy, but it was loud for that corner.
We were just outgrowing it — people wanted to come, dance, eat pizza. It wasn’t a little sit down, cute neighbourhood wine bar.
I was looking to move that concept and make it into a Newstead Public Bar, and make it bigger — something in a bit more of an industrial space. And I was pretty close to signing a lease for it, but then we had a snap lockdown in January.
I said, god, I’m just going to stay put — I’m just going to sit because these snap lockdowns are just going to keep coming.
I was chatting with my real estate agent, he was keeping one eye open for me, and a space in [Fortitude] Valley popped up. It was pretty much all ready to go — there was a bar in there, all the bones were there. It had a little bit of bad juju, just from a few of the people who were operating it before me.
We wanted to take everything that was working, and all the aspects of the offering from Commercial Road and just do them a lot better: so the music, the lights, the neons, the colour, the branding, the message of having a really inclusive space. It’s essentially a gay bar but full of straight people. It’s pretty loose.
I hate paints, I don’t know why. I just don’t like paint. So [at Queens] I covered the wall in posters, which was an idea I had for Commercial but I doubled it and did a whole wall instead of just a bit. It’s a lot of black and white print.
It’s a cool way for us to get the message [out] of what we’re about — there’s men wearing dresses and drag queens wearing not much — it’s a just a cool message to relay. That grew from Commercial Road, we were doing a few little drag nights and they were selling out — it was a room full of people who just loved everyone, a cool little community. Those events grew and we couldn’t keep up, so we upgraded and moved to Queens.
I knew we’d be able to grab the Kings space, which is just two doors down in the same laneway. I knew that the previous occupant was wanting to get out, so I knew when I signed the lease for Queens that Kings would come.
Kings is an outdoor venue, a bigger capacity — it’s 90 outside of corona times. It’s got a big stage and a bar ‚ it’s not as wine focused as Queens is. Queens is cocktail-heavy and wine-heavy.
We treat Kings like a live music venue. The drink offering is a lot faster, lots of tinnies, the cocktails are easier to do, some house wines that I made. Nothing super natural and funky like we do have in Queens.
Aesthetically, Kings is 1980s LA-inspired neon lit, tacos and po’ boys.
We treat Queens more like the lounge area. The venues work really well because you can take your drinks back and forth, because the laneway is licensed.