Things are happening behind closed doors at the former Birdhouse Bar and Kitchen on Baylis Street as the venue’s new owners launch into refurbishments.
Husband and wife team Chris Hawe and Chelsea Cleary have wasted little time since closing the doors on the Birdhouse last week and hope to relaunch as the Birdy Bar in September.
“We’ve been looking for years to set something up in Wagga,” said Chris, describing himself as a Wagga boy who was excited to be back in his hometown.
After a stint in Sydney, the pair opted for a tree change three years ago and took over the Royal Hotel in Chelsea’s hometown of West Wyalong.
After expanding to include a mobile bar business that covers weddings/parties/anything across the Riverina, they jumped at the opportunity when the Birdhouse went up for sale in June.
“We knew [former owners] Scotty and Dion and we’d always come here and we loved it, so when we got whispers that something was happening, we went back and forth for a bit and now, here we are!” said Chris.
Chelsea explained that they would retain the staff and the ‘bones’ of the existing bar, but would trade the moody ‘industrial chic’ for a bright new look.
“It’s more of a refurb because we aren’t changing anything structurally, but it will not look like this,” she said, indicating the exposed red brick walls and vintage iron and timber fittings.
“It will be light and bright with pinks and yellows. We’re tiling the whole way through; the bar will be yellow Italian tiles and we’ll have a big gallery wall.
The couple aims to complement the well established local pub scene by offering something different.
“With food and drink we want to do a really good range of share meals and tapas rather than big, full-service plates,” said Chris.
“We’ll still do cocktails at the bar and we’ll look at craft beers and some of the smaller local suppliers.
“I played rugby with Jake [Eaglesham] from Riverina Gin and we’ve already started talking about some sort of collaboration.”
They hope to revitalise the venue with a regular lineup of events throughout the summer.
“We’re really going for the 25-plus crowd who are coming out for cocktails or for after-work drinks, and we’ll do bookings to bring in birthdays and bridal showers or baby showers, those sorts of things,” said Chelsea.
“We’ll keep doing Friday and Saturday night live music, and then on Sunday we’ll have acoustic sets in the garden.”
Chris said the bar’s location in the middle of Wagga’s extensive main drag offered plenty of opportunities.
“We have such an awesome area here and, in terms of location, you’ve got great pubs up one end and great pubs up the other and we’re a kind of a transition point from Baylis Street to Fitzmaurice,” he said.
“We’re also hoping to piggyback on a lot of the events that are going to be happening in the park [Victory Memorial Gardens] like Gears and Beers and we’re actually planning a ‘tap takeover’ with one of the Sydney breweries.”
In the meantime, it’s back to work on the refurb with the doors set to reopen in September.
You can keep up with the latest here.