Bars and Clubs talks cocktails, vibes and equality with new bar owners

22 January, 2020 by Andy Young

When partners Doug Laming and Merlin Kibe saw the space at 77 Stanley Street in Inner Sydney’s Darlinghurst, they quickly saw the connections to the New Orleans hospitality scene, writes Brydie Allen for Bars and Clubs.

The big old terrace house had a balcony overlooking the street, with the inside already decked out in green, white and purple colours against a beautiful wooden bar top, and lit by lanterns. This aesthetic was also already connected to the atmosphere they wanted to create, a mishmash of all their favourite parts of New Orleans.

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Named The Big Easy after the nickname of the city that inspired them, Laming and Kibe told Bars and Clubs they are focused on creating a specific type of service experience.

“We’ve both been in the industry so long, we like to be able to look up with people that are on the same journey as us and want to be part of what we’ve got here to offer and how we can offer it,” Laming said.

“Let’s have a good time with it and a bit of a chat – I really wanted the bar to be more like an extension of our living room.”

Kibe added: “We wanted it to be very chill and for us to be more friends as well with the customers.”

With Laming behind the bar and Kibe on the floor, the co-owner pair foster this vibe themselves wherever possible. But they know that it can’t be solely reliant on them physically being in the building.

“We spent a lot of time in building the brand in itself in The Big Easy, and then what the Big Easy stood for and the mission statement of it with tone of voice. And I guess it is a little bit reflective of myself in some ways as well. But the important thing was to have a bar and business with longevity, which means the brand needs to be bigger than the people operating it,” Laming said.

“If we’re not here every day, our values and the way that we want the venue to operate need to be installed into the venue and into the business itself… but not to the extent where the bar relies on the fact that I’m in the bar making cocktails and Merlin’s on the floor chatting to the people and looking after them.”

Everything at The Big Easy, from the design to the menu to the service style, has been carefully curated to create an effortless impression of the character Laming and Kibe want.

Drawing from their New Orleans inspiration, there is a blend of design cues from the city’s classic roots and fun atmosphere. Some sections have moody lighting, hanging ferns and voodoo pieces, while others blend refined elements of the French Quarter with Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street party style.

Elsewhere, you’ll find a rooftop with live music sets throughout summer and an outdoor courtyard decked out in fairy lights. There’s also some fusion with Australia and America, that sees murals by locally-based artists Natty B and Kentaro Yoshida go alongside PBR branded wallpaper and the Australian brewed but American style pale ale of the house’s exclusive Skulligator, a collaboration with Mornington Peninsula Brewery.

As Laming describes all the elements and their inspiration, he said: “It’s meant to be a little bit of this and a little bit of that to take pretty much the parts of it that we liked to create an overall view and I thought a lot of that would come through from the atmosphere of the venue itself and how it was actually conducted.”

For more from Laming and Kibe on the drinks menu and concerns over gender equality in the industry, head to the Bars and Clubs website.