New cocktail bar to take over old registry office in Wollongong

The company behind Crown Street's popular Howlin’ Wolf bar has joined forces with a bar operator from Orange to lodge a proposal to open a new cocktail joint on Kembla Street.

The drinking hole, at 74 Kembla Street, will be named The Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages, according to a development plan on display through Wollongong City Council.

This unusual moniker references the former state registry which shut up shop in the same premises in 2014, when the government centralised births, death and marriage services.

Despite the business-like name, it seems the new venue will be anything but bureaucratic, specialising in serving American-style bourbon, Scotch whiskey and cocktails, according to documents lodged by the proponents.

Nightlife hub: Kembla Street, north of Crown Street Mall is becoming home to a number of bars and restaurants. Main picture: Robert Peet.

Nightlife hub: Kembla Street, north of Crown Street Mall is becoming home to a number of bars and restaurants. Main picture: Robert Peet.

It will also serve food, including cold tasting plates, antipasto and cheeses, the documents say, and will be pitched at “a mature clientele of 30-60 years age demographic rather than 18-25 largely due to sale of ‘top shelf’ spirits and associated price point[s]”.

In a plan of management lodged with thew proposal, the owners say they plan to apply for a small bar licence for up to 100 patrons, operating from noon to 2am. 

Submissions to Wollongong council about the bar close on Wednesday. 

It would appear unlikely that the plan will be knocked back, as the city endorsed the lease of the vacant council-owned block to the bar owners in February. 

According to council papers, the site had been empty for two and half years despite numerous attempts to attract tenants.

Under the new tenancy the city will make rent of at least $36,400 a year.

The lease, which the council granted to company Not Insolvent Pty Ltd for five years, will start on the date development consent is granted.

The council noted the company was also the controlling company of Howlin’ Wolf, listing directors as Luke Symons, Ben Abraham and Scott Mileto. 

Mr Symons and Mr Abraham took over the management of Howlin’ Wolf in early 2017, while Mr Mileto has owned and operated Washington & Co, a “whiskey saloon” in Orange, for the past three years, the council said.

The strip of Kembla Street between lower Crown Street Mall and Market Street is becoming an enclave of night time activity.

For years, Rad Bar (formerly Yours and Owls) has ensured the sounds of live music can be heard floating up the street many night nights a week.

Further north, the Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing (OLGR) recently granted a licence to new small bar the Black Cockatoo, which will take up residence behind a street front ice-cream store.

The Black Cockatoo neighbours wine and cheese bar The Throsby, which opened with Wollongong’s first small bar licence in 2014.

At the other side of Court Lane, next to the proposed site for The Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages, an Italian restaurant named Pizzeria 50 opened in early January.

According to figures from Wollongong City Council, more than 65 small bars and cafes have opened in the CBD since 2014.