3 September 2021

Civic's nightlife is getting a shake up (and it's not just the cocktails)

| Lottie Twyford
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Man pouring cocktail at Beirut Bunker Bar

Beirut Bunker Bar will temporarily close its doors to undergo some changes to diversify its offerings. It will return as Bar Beirut. Photo: Zachary Griffiths.

With all the changes and uncertainty of the past year in the hospitality scene, it’s unsurprising a few bars have had to call last drinks during lockdown, while others have rebranded or diversified their offerings in order to stay afloat.

Garema Place is set to get a facelift with almost next-door neighbours Honkytonks and Beirut Bunker Bar both bidding au revoir to the busy area – for now.

Canberra stalwart Honkytonks has already been replaced by a fresh mezcal bar and eatery. Called Loquita, it’s the latest venture from the HARVAC Group, the brains behind Kokomo’s, Sage and Akiba.

Offering traditional Mexican flavour and flair, the bar has an extensive range of tequila and agave spirits on offer, as well as sangria, cocktails and a range of beer and wine.

Interior of Loquita bar

The interior of Garema Place’s new Mexican bar, Loquita. Photo: Loquita.

In the kitchen are two well-known names: executive chef James Viles and head chef Brendan Hill, who deliver traditional, regional Mexican flavours. Think tacos, quesadillas and nachos.

Beirut Bunker Bar has also called last drinks – although it will be returning later in the year as Bar Beirut.

Husband and wife team Soumi and Chantelle Tannous will be relaunching the bar with a greater focus on food. Soumi explains that COVID-19 has made it clear the venue’s offering needs to be diversified.

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They’re set to add a kitchen to the premises to deliver a modern take on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine.

During the COVID-19 shutdown in 2020, the venue pivoted to deliver a ‘Bunker Down’ takeaway cocktail range, but Soumi says it only generated enough revenue to cover one of their employees, who, as an international student, was not eligible for any government assistance.

In a post on Beirut Bunker Bar’s social media pages, the COVID-19 lockdown is confirmed as the reason behind the change, and also references the need to diversify the bar’s offerings in case of a future lockdown.

Wasabi martini at Beirut Bunker Bar

One of Beirut Bunker Bar’s cocktails – the Wasabi Martini. Photo: Zachary Griffiths.

Just around the corner from Garema Place, Alter Ego also recently announced its closure.

A Facebook post claimed the building’s owners had been unable to arrive at fair retail terms with the cafe and restaurant, and the venue has decided to close its doors.

There is also speculation that a new bar or club – or even an extension to one – could be on the cards for the iconic corner of the Sydney Building, which faces onto Northbourne Avenue and London Circuit.

The windows to the site – where Outback Jack’s Bar and Grill was located until last year – have been boarded up, suggesting renovation work is taking place inside.

Crowd of people gathered outside Mooseheads in Civic

Could Mooseheads be expanding? Photo: Supplied.

There is also a notice of application from Caftor Pty Ltd to amend the liquor licence, floor plan, occupancy and address of the premises.

This is the same company that runs Canberra’s longest-running night-time venue, the nearby Mooseheads Pub & Nightclub.

Until 2011, this corner of the Sydney Building was occupied by clothing store Fletcher Jones, which went into administration in 2011.

At an auction in 2013, the premises failed to sell.

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