Venues breathe new life into city

A new wave of small bars is poised to transform Wollongong’s nightlife, with an increasing focus on food, design, ambience and culture.

Dagwood on Market Street this week became the latest small venue to start trading, with restaurateurs Aaron and Stan Crinis unveiling a bar and kitchen that pays homage to the bustling street food scene of Los Angeles.

The brothers designed it with a Sydney firm, Mandy Edge Design, converting a concrete shell into a riot of street posters, neon signage and industrial textures.

Stan Crinis said the venue was inspired by travels throughout Asia and America and was designed with a mix of nooks, booths, benches and small tables to meet a growing fondness for ‘‘intimate spaces’’. 

‘‘Wollongong for so long has been pubs or restaurants; people just want more options to go out,’’ said Stan, who along with Aaron operates North Wollongong beach cafe Diggies.

‘‘People like to have different areas rather than just one open space. They might always sit in the one spot or feel like they can discover more.’’ 

Small bars have trended heavily in Sydney, partly the result of the Liquor Act in 2008, which made available a type of small bar licence and a less restrictive version of the dine-or-drink authority, the primary service authorisation (PSA).

A PSA, applied to an on-premises liquor licence, costs $50 and allows liquor to be supplied as long as this isn’t the primary focus of the business.

Many existing Wollongong cafes have collected the authorisation but most continue to operate like a restaurant.

Globe Lane cafe/bar His Boy Elroy, which opened on October 23, trades for breakfast and lunch before rolling out a menu of bar snacks and drinks available as late as midnight.

Co-owner Ben Hudson believes the venue and others, such as chef Lorenzo Pagnan’s upcoming bar extension on Keira Street, have staying power.

‘‘I think people will stop going to the bigger nightclubs and they’ll probably stick to the smaller boutique places. They’re small, intimate, cosy, with good quality food, good wines, good beers. Somewhere where they’re proud to go.’’ 

A just-opened cafe/bar on Keira Street, The Living Room, is appealing to an older crowd. Another, a blues and whisky joint called Howlin’ Wolf, is set to open in January. 

Owner Manny Mavridis said he hoped to give the bar a ‘‘cosmopolitan feel’’.

Mark Grimson, Wollongong City Council’s city centre revitalisation manager, said the new venues were part of the council’s plan to activate the city centre after 5pm.

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