How (not!) to open a beer venue

The Scratch in Milton

The Scratch in Milton

Brisbane bar The Scratch succeeded in spite of making “every mistake in the book” in its opening year, according to co-founder Ben Nichols, who has revealed details of his next hospitality venture.

In a candid interview, Nichols told Radio Brews News that he personally had not worked a day in a bar, prior to opening The Scratch with Kieran Ryan and Patrick Schevlin in November 2011.

He said the objective was “creating a small bar that felt like our living room”, where the trio could share their passion for trying “weird, wild, wonderful and interesting beers”.

The Scratch team, five years on

The Scratch team, five years on

“We did that in a very naive way. We had not had a lot of experience with small business, we probably made every mistake in the book at the start,” he said.

“We opened up on day one with as much stock as we could get to sell over the bar and zero dollars in our bank account.

“We couldn’t really escape that one in the end. We’d maxed out every single one of our credit cards, we’d drained our bank accounts completely.

“We accounted for trying to have some cash flow at the beginning stages but it just didn’t work out like that.

The bustling bar at The Scratch

The bustling bar at The Scratch

“But we got there, and that’s what’s important, and we’re still here five years later.

“We were very lucky in terms of, we had very strong opening word of mouth… to the point that in the first three months, you couldn’t go on Friday night without lining up for half an hour.

“Had that gone any other direction than, thankfully, the way that it went, we would have been in a lot of trouble,” said Nichols.

Brisbane gets arcade beer bar
Nichols said he is trying hard not to make similar mistakes on his next venue, Netherworld, a bar, gaming arcade and diner he is opening with fellow Scratch founder Kieran Ryan and James Angliss.

Netherworld, coming to Fortitude Valley

Netherworld, coming to Fortitude Valley

Located in the former Shamrock heritage pub in Fortitude Valley, the venue will have 15 pinball machines, 25 arcade machines, classic consoles and board games spanning from the 1970s until the present day.

It will also feature a full dining room and 24 taps comprising craft beer, cider and cocktails, Nichols told Radio Brews News.

“It’ll be a very approachable lineup of beers… that highlights our favourite beers from Brisbane and around Australia,” he said.

“There will be a few different personalities in this one particular venue. We see it as a place that, you don’t necessarily have to be a gamer to go there… but it should be a place that you can go and waste four or five hours just shoving coins into things, whilst having a beer in your hand at the same time.”

Netherworld will open in early 2017.

Episode 111 of Radio Brews News is available to download here.

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