There has been setback after setback, but one of Canberra’s favourite live-music institutions is finally settled into a new venue, and it’s holding a great big housewarming party to celebrate. But it won’t just be about the music this time.
Transit Bar will feature Brisbane punk-rock band Dune Rats as well as several of Canberra’s best young bands.
Venue manager Kierain Bunton says Transit has been open since the beginning of the year, but it’s been trying and failing to host a grand opening ever since then due to COVID-19 restrictions on dancing and singing.
“We had to cancel everything. We could only open three days a week because it was hard to open with any more capacity with so much uncertainty.”
Kierain said the uncertainty didn’t go to waste, however, causing them to “rethink what our idea is”.
“Why not throw a laneway party? If we can’t have it inside because of COVID-19 restrictions, we might as well have it outside.”
These restrictions have now lifted, so Transit Bar is gearing up to accommodate even more than the 1800 people they could have had.
Many will remember the bar’s old space on Akuna Street, Civic, but ever since lease negotiations fell through in May 2020, Transit Bar has been on the hunt for a new home. COVID-19 made matters worse.
“All the delays were due to COVID, in one way or another,” Kierain says.
“We’ve got a really small team trying to execute this. When one of us got COVID, we all got COVID, which was really unfortunate, but it’s the nature of the business that we’re in.”
The old Transit Bar had earned a reputation for itself since the 1960s as a venue built on live musical performances, and Kierain says the new outfit pays homage to that while also incorporating more of an emphasis on the hospitality staples of food and drink.
“We are focusing on food and service and trying to make Transit Bar into an actual bar, a place where you can come and have dinner or lunch or beers with your friends,” he says.
“We really want to focus on making a standalone venue that just happens to be great at music as well. We don’t want it just to be known as a music venue or geek space.”
The new-look Transit Bar is equipped with a full kitchen and offers menus for lunch and dinner. The capacity is also greatly increased.
It will all be put to the test come Sunday, 6 March, but Kierain already says the grand opening will be the first of many special shows to come.
“We’ve got a lot of big shows coming up, which will be released soon. We’re looking to set a high standard early and continue that.”
The upgrade has been “incredibly well-received” by the local music community, ensuring the music remains a core staple alongside the burgers and beer.
“We’ve made a very conscious choice to stand by the music community and be as supportive as possible.”
Transit Returns will be held from 3 pm, Sunday, 13 March, 143 London Circuit, Civic. Buy tickets online.