Saint John opening Devonport bar

Empress: Opening in April

The team behind the successful Saint John Craft Beer Bar in Launceston is poised to open a likeminded venue in Tasmania’s north west.

Empress Craft Beer is located in the new Hill Street Centre retail development in Devonport and will be a landmark venue for the region, according to Saint John Group’s Jade Burley.

“There’s really nothing like it on the north west coast that’s 100 per cent focused on craft beer,” he told Australian Brews News.

Burley said Empress continues the recent groundswell of new food and drink venues in Devonport, which is now following the impressive evolution of hospitality seen in Hobart since Mona opened in 2011.

“It’s probably the last frontier. There’s been a stranglehold of larger groups owning hotels… there hasn’t been younger or more forward-thinking people getting into venues quite as much,” Burley said.

“In Hobart we saw a lot of people that have left the state and gone away and cut their teeth, whether it be in Melbourne or Sydney or the US or the UK, then come back and open their own places.

“There hasn’t been that level of investment in the north west coast.”

The new venue’s unassuming exterior

Opening nearby in November 2017 is the Providore Place development, which is part of Devonport City Council’s $250 million urban renewal project, Living City.

Providore Place features a restaurant helmed by television chef Ben Milbourne, an outlet for local salmon producer 41 Degrees South and a visitor experience for the new gin distiller, Southern Wild.

Distinctly Devonport
Empress is a 100-capacity venue with 12 taps that will have a similar ethos to Saint John, albeit with a somewhat warmer, more polished fitout to that of the Launceston venue, Burley said.

“The name comes from the Empress of Australia, which was the last of the Australian National Line ferries before the State Government took over the ferry service back in 1985,” he said.

“For most of us it’s the oldest ship we can still remember from our childhood. Devonport’s been the key port for the Bass Strait ferry, pretty much since the turn of the 1900s, and it’s what links Tasmania to the rest of the world – we like that aspect of it as well.”

Quality first

Burley said Empress will champion local breweries, as well as offering some of the best beers from the mainland and further afield.

“We apply a quality caveat to everything we pour. We won’t pour something just because it’s from Tassie, if we don’t think it’s up to scratch,” he said.

“If it’s Tassie stuff we’re pouring, we feel it’s good enough to mix it with anything from anywhere.

An artistic rendering of Devonport’s $250 million Living City urban renewal project

“Quality, uniqueness and providing an experience comes first, not just supporting local for local’s sake,” said Burley.

Empress will have the same BYO food policy as that of Saint John. It will also offer charcuterie, cheeses, olives and pickles supplied by the neighbouring Hill Street Grocer, sold at delicatessen prices.

The venue is located at Shop 2, Hill Street Centre, 48-54 Oldaker Street Devonport. Keep an eye on its Facebook page for the official opening date, currently targeted for the weekend of April 8 and 9.

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