The owner of a beloved Tasmanian bar he founded seven years ago in a former dilapidated artists’ studio says the time is right, while the site’s new owners have revealed their plans.
In its place is set to rise a sleek cocktail and wine bar serving charcuterie boards and desserts, targeting the “before and after dinner” audience, which still platforms events such as the monthly Slamduggery poetry slam and hosts bands.
British expat Lee Edrich founded Kingsway Bar, on Launceston’s Kingsway in the CBD, seven years ago.
“I rented a room back in 2016,” he said.
When he took on the site, it was a small artist’s studio but, prior to that and for the “longest time,” it was a “hardware and horse tack shop,” Mr Edrich said.
“It’s like having your own baby, seeing your child grow up and go,” the barman said of his decision to sell up.
“When I got this room, the carpet was superglued to the floor, we needed crowbars to rip it all up.
“Now I’ve seen people get engaged, first dates, break-ups – I’ve seen the journey of everyone’s lives.
“I wanted this place to move on with someone else… to carry on and continue to be a room with many people in it – a room is only as good as the people in it.”
Mr Edrich, who was previously Cotton On’s state manager and, before that, the night manager of Kmart Launceston when it went 24–7, said the birth of his fifth child prompted his decision to sail off into the sunset.
It was time to “spend a bit more time at home,” he said.
“We only traded three days a week, but it was still probably a 35-hour work week, if you were to open five, six, seven days a week, you could easily do 80 hours.”
The best memories, Mr Edrich said, involved fostering local talent, giving early career artists and fledgling events a platform.
“People like Tom Fowkes, Tori Rattray – when I opened in 2016, they hadn’t been seen much, but I gave them a stage, and now seeing them move on is pretty cool,” Mr Edrich said.
Mr Edrich will host his bar’s farewell event, Last Drinks, on Friday night, featuring a selection of artists who have graced his stage over the past seven years.
The site is set to remain a house of merriment, however, after its acquisition by horse-owning Karoola pair Vanessa Thomas and Ryan Smith, a pair of hospitality pros from New South Wales who relocated in the wake of the Black Summer bushfires.
Ms Thomas, whose partner Ryan is head chef at the Royal Oak Hotel, said the pair’s future venue would feature cocktails, a heavier wine focus – substantially Tasmanian, alongside other selected regions of repute – beer on tap, charcuterie boards, desserts and other nibbles.
“We love Tassie, love its produce, its wines, its lifestyle,” Ms Thomas said.
The new venture would “complement” the community Mr Edrich built, while establishing its own identity. Slamduggery will be welcome at the new venue.
The pair take over the lease on July 1. The new venue would open initially as a straight bar, before adding a food component later once the necessary licence has been obtained.