24 September 2023

Reopened Birdy Bar spreads its wings in style with tasteful makeover

| Jarryd Rowley
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four people standing behind bar

Birdy Bar owners Chris Hawe (right), Chelsea Cleary (left), venue manager Jacson Sommerville and mixologist Bailey Busuttil are relieved and excited following the new bar’s first weekend of trading. Photo: Jarryd Rowley.

Having only four and a half weeks to completely revitalise a bar may be a bridge too far for many business owners.

But, for husband-and-wife team Chris Hawe and Chelsea Cleary, it was just the right amount of time to breathe new life into what was formerly known as the Birdhouse Bar and Kitchen, now the Birdy Bar.

Although they did cut it fine and found themselves adding the finishing touches to the venue only 45 minutes before opening the doors in time for Wagga’s annual Aggies Race Day.

“We didn’t leave ourselves a lot of time to finish up, but we were excited to have the doors open,” Chris said.

“We gave ourselves four and a half weeks to basically gut and rebuild the entire place before trading.

“By the time of our soft launch, all the team were gassed, so to have people come in and enjoy the vibe of the place was quite a relief. We’ve done our version of The Block and we’re happy not to do it again,” Chris added with a grin.

The Birdy Bar opened to the public on 15 September and, while it wasn’t packed to the rafters, the team was overjoyed to see the almost unrecognisable venue come to life once again.

“Talking to the staff during that first weekend of trading, they’re all very excited,” Chris said.

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“The new look, the new layout, it has definitely injected some energy, not only to the staff who were feeling a little rundown but to the patrons who came in to enjoy a drink or two.”

Chris said the major changes to the venue included a new benched seating area, new lighting to create a more social mood, dining hall tables, repainted walls throughout the bar, additional areas for seating, and a couch area.

“We got rid of all the darkness and sort of created a bit more of a vibrant mood,” he said.

“We have rebuilt the bar, put in a new coffee machine, trained our staff to use it, and created a unique menu of cocktails, craft beer, food and dessert.

“The goal was to change the vibe and the look; previously we thought it was a bit too dark and serious. It felt very similar to other pubs around.”

Chris said he wanted the new bar to appeal to a wider clientele and to create a space where patrons could feel relaxed while enjoying a quiet afternoon or a night out.

“We definitely wanted to appeal to a new crowd of people that want to come and actually enjoy conversation, enjoy good food, good drinks. We want to really target a different dynamic,” he said.

“Previously, the bar targeted that 18-to-25 demographic, and while we still want that younger demographic to come by, we also want to take a bit of a different direction and encourage those who are 25-plus to come in after work or after a long week and enjoy a drink.”

Chris and his team are also looking to fill a gap in the market and provide a service that not many other bars or cafes offer.

“With the new coffee machine set up, we will be able to serve coffee from the time we open at 11 am until the time we close at midnight,” Chris explained.

“Normally, once cafes close their doors between 2 and 4 pm, there isn’t a place to grab a hot drink unless you’re going through a Maccas drive-through.

“We have trained staff on all the time who will be able to serve coffee for those who just want to unwind after a day at work. It doesn’t have to be a beer or a cocktail. By giving customers that option, I believe it really does create a unique vibe that anyone can enjoy regardless of their preference.”

Along with the new coffee machine, Chris and his team have introduced a new beer and cocktail menu for those looking for a cool refreshment.

“I’m a massive endorser of craft beer and exposure to Australian craft,” Chris said.

“Coming from our other venue as well and having good connections with breweries, we really wanted to give those local breweries a voice and a chance to be seen while also being something we think is high quality.

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“We have your usual suspects like Carlton Draught and VB, but having the variety on tap is important to us.”

As the summer months draw near and the weather gets warmer, Chris and the team are eager for people to enjoy Birdy Bar’s outdoor facilities.

“We’re definitely going to be pushing our live music as we head to the end of the year,” he said.

“We will be offering catering for functions for different groups and businesses as we head towards that Christmas period while also trading for those who just want to come in and take a load off.”

Be sure to come say hi to Chris, Chelsea and the team at the newly refurbished Birdy Bar from 11 am Wednesday to Sunday. They’re located at 246 Baylis Street, Wagga Wagga.

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