Building on successes in Byron Bay
A MELBOURNE couple is changing the way locals drink and dine out in Byron Bay.
Ben and Sarah Musu started with St Elmo Dining Room and Bar in Fletcher Street, one of the first recipients in NSW of what is colloquially known as a boutique bar licence.
In practice that means staff are permitted to serve alcohol to anyone who walks in, from midday to midnight, seven days a week.
Combine that civilised piece of licensing with a kitchen that never closes and it’s easy to see why the venue has become a beacon not only for locals, but for tourists and visiting celebrities such as Bob Hawke, Jennifer Hawkins and Baz Luhrmann.
Now the couple will open their second venue, Targa, in Marvell Street next Thursday hoping to capitalise on St Elmo’s success.
It will open at 8am and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week and will be licensed.
“The demographic in Byron Bay has changed dramatically over the last 10 years,” said Mr Musu, who owned Bay Leaf Cafe from 2004 to 2009 and opened St Elmo on Easter Saturday in 2009.
“People are demanding a higher level of service and an alternative to traditional drinking venues.”
With the failure rate of restaurant businesses in the area notably high, Mr Musu said he believed local operators needed to design a business vehicle that could handle challenges, including the seasonality of the market, the high cost of transporting food and liquor and the expensive rents.
His venues also boast experienced hospitality professionals including St Elmo general manager Marcus Corcoran, executive chef Christian Paulsen and Targa manager Nick Carrum among their 50 staff.
While St Elmo, which seats 97 people, would continue to serve European-style share plates and bistro-style mains, Targa, which will seat 55, would serve Italian trattoria-style food, Mr Musu said.
Before moving to Byron Bay, he managed well-known Melbourne venues The Dogs Bar, the Richmond Public House and the Albert Park Hotel.