I first saw Hoo Ha Bar in a write up in Brisbane's fabulous Map Magazine. Having a love for coffee, craft beer and exposed brick I immediately felt like I wanted to investigate. It is quite unassuming from the outside, but stepping up and into the cafe from Tribune St is quite simply lovely. It is light, airy and welcoming and the interior is humble but well put together.
Just open this year around Easter, it was a journey for owners Declan, Mike and Anthony to find the right space. Discussions and dreams about what is now Hoo Ha Bar have been in the pipeline for some time, having known each other for a while. This year they finally decided to leave their day jobs in finance, teaching and recruitment respectively, and take a big risk starting a hospitality venture. They have worked hard to create an environment they would themselves enjoy hanging out in.
For the interior space, they had a must-have checklist of features they weren't willing to compromise on.
- Lots of natural light
- Timber floors
- High ceilings
- Red brick
They looked at dozens of places, and came close to settling on something else, before things there fell through, and they found this little gem at Southbank. Built in the 1940's the building was originally a mechanic workshop for Queensland Rail, who have a station nearby. Since then it has had a number of uses, computer gaming, an English Language school, but this is the first time it has been used as a bar or cafe.
Renovation feature - exposed brick
From the 1st of February, until opening on the 18th of March, there was much work to be done, and bravely they did everything that they could themselves. A big wall dividing the space had to come down, and other walls built up, a doorway moved, flooring fixed, and plumbing and electrical all needed to be put in to suit the function of a fully licensed bar.
The main feature behind the bar is an exposed brick wall with patchy paint on it. It looks raw and industrial, and to me, is the highlight of the room. But it was not an easy task. Coated in four layers of paint, the guys began by using paint stripper which fairly easily removed the first layer. However, the next layers were not so cooperative and turned into a mushy paste that wouldn't really come off. Many trial and errors ensued, and the best solution was to use an angle grinder with a sandpaper pad on it, while someone held an industrial vacuum cleaner to control the levels of paint dust flying around. It took them an entire week just to do this wall. The lesson they have taken from this arduous task is "Get someone professional to do it." Wise words!
A limited colour scheme of brown and green creates a relaxed atmosphere. With natural materials like leather and wood, and greenery all around it is definitely a place you want to stay and hang out in. Retaining some of the existing features like high ceilings and exposed beams really opens the space. There is no squashing up to people to get your morning coffee, and even better, there is loads of space to stay and drink it.
The eclectic furniture has been sourced mostly second hand, through things like eBay and Gumtree. They say they got really lucky with a few of their key pieces, like the gorgeous Chesterfield lounges, and the beautiful church pews that came through a friend. There is a vintage feel to everything but not from one particular era. The key design feature has been in the colour scheme and material choices.
This large image on the wall is intriguing and interesting. The portrait of Subcomandante Marcos isn't meant to be a political statement, but more a discussion point for people in the bar. Although the image is quite striking, he is not an immediately recognisable figure to most, so it requires some digging to find out more. The idea is that this image will change from time to time, always with the purpose of getting people to interact more.
There are some other ideas in the pipeline too; getting something on the windows to reduce the summer heat a bit, and a community style noticeboard.
Of course money is priority when running a business, but you do get the feeling that there is more to it than that here. A common love for quality local produce and beverages, and friends having somewhere nice to sit and have a good time are the underpinning philosophies of Declan, Mike and Anthony, and this is what creates the vibe of Hoo Ha Bar. There is importance placed on successes other than financial. Over and above paying the bills, creating the beautiful space, excellent food and and drinks, there is a desire and goal to serve and share this place with like minded people. People having a good time is what these guys care about the most, and there is an opening for new friendships at their large central tables. Late afternoon Friday, the place populates for after-work or study drinks and the relaxed vibe created in the day seamlessly follows through into the night.
The boys wanted to build a place that is welcoming and real, that serves locally sourced food and drink at reasonable prices, and is somewhere to call your 'local'. They chose a perfect blank canvas to begin with , but have certainly achieved this. There is no pretence, with a raw and natural feel to the interior. With no particular outcome in mind the owners pulled together all their ideas into what is a stylish and comfortable space, a great place to get a craft beer or coffee and eat some simple but delicious food. If you are in Brisbane I recommend you check it out!
Big thanks to Jess from Jessica C B Photography for taking the gorgeous photos for me too!