Armidale’s craftiest new bar, The Welder’s Dog, has been launched and is serving unique boutique drinks, impressing the community sip by sip. Focus hounds the team for an insight into the craft.
Tell us about the team and where it all started …
Dan and Tom grew up in Inverell and went to Inverell High School, then went to UNE and lived at Earle Page College. We went our separate ways for a few years and ended up travelling throughout Canada and South America together and separately through Europe in 2009/10. Dan worked in Wales in a restaurant, Tom in Scotland in a Whisky Bar.
We have always been interested in small business and the idea of creating something fun and different. Over a lonely and cold Christmas Day on Vancouver Island chewing half cooked 2-minute noodles, the idea of a bar emerged.
It wasn’t until a few years later Dan and Tom met up in early 2014 and over a bottle of Balvenie Whisky and Bruce Springsteen, decided it was now or never to take the plunge and start the bar.
It took almost 9 months to secure the correct location, approvals and sort out general business set up.
The Welder’s Dog is a small bar that focuses on Craft Beer sourced throughout Australia and the rest of the world. We also stock plenty of wine and spirits, with a a focus on local and regional produce. We have a rotating beer tap system, which means we only ever source one keg of each type of beer and when it runs out, a new exciting beer comes on tap. Similarly, our wines, spirits and food is continually updated to ensure something new for our customers.
We are all about providing a point of difference for customers and are now looking at becoming the first local BYO takeaway food premises where people can order their favourite takeaway from our takeaway partners to wash down with a nice beer or wine in the bar.
After considerable effort searching for the right venue, we stumbled across 120 Marsh Street and after much deliberation and advice from family and friends, the building revealed some good potential.
The biggest obstacles were the lack of plumbing, old foundations, rising damp and town planning and liquor licensing issues. Although hard to see at first, the building had some charm and when taking down the old plastic signage, some nice Armidale blue brick and old Frank Rowe Ford Signage was revealed. We couldn’t believe our luck, as the signage perfectly fit the rustic feel we were after and it contributes to the heritage of the town centre. We also had plenty of people dropping in and letting us know the history of the building, with even one old-timer tearing-up when we said we had no intention on painting over the sign.
We were on a business “research trip” at the Great Beer SpecTAPular in Melbourne in May 2014 and throwing around potential bar names. We remembered a mate once used the saying “Blind as a Welder’s Dog”, and we thought it was good tongue and cheek for a bar name – not that we condone the connotation … Our business motto is actually drink less; taste more.
We first started clearing out the exiting offices and amenities in the building and as it goes, things always take more time than expected, but four months of building, a pallet of liquid nails and with the help of family and friends working bees, we were nearly ready to trade.
We tried to use as much recycled material as possible, including pressed metal, timber posts and even finding piles of old Armidale Blue Bricks to build the bar. Every night over a few product samples for a month we would chip the mortar from the old bricks, which now form the face of the bar.
Tom’s brother, Stu, was recruited later in the process as bar manager to help with operations and management of the bar due to his experience in the hospitality industry. (Stu – if you’re reading this, it better be in your own time!)
We took a bit of a gamble starting construction before we had the liquor licence, but much to our delight and relief the approval was received a month before we opened.
We have been overwhelmed with the response. Many people are saying, “This is just what Armidale needed” and we already have a solid retuning customer base. Our opening week even had an 18th and an 80th birthday party, which show the diversity in our customer demographic.
We are slowly but surely converting some beer drinkers to craft beer and bringing lots of fellow beer geeks out of the woodwork.
What are the plans for the future?
Get a little more sleep, stop living on takeaway, start shaving again and put back on the 10 kg we each lost in the last 12 months. Dan to spend more time with his 9 month old son, Oliver and beautiful wife, Amber, and Tom and Emma to travel.
We would love to brew our own line of craft beer, but one step at a time.
We really appreciate the local feedback and support and well-wishes. What we love most about the place is the diverse range of people we meet and get to chat to every day.
A special thanks to Amber and Emma, Dan and Tom’s partners, who were instrumental in providing advice and continual support (and free labour) and particularly bringing the boys’ ideas back to the ground when they continually got carried away with things. And to Stu for his slave labour and teaching us the fundamentals of running a bar. Also, a big thanks to Tom and Jason, who helped with the build.