The people at the WA liquor licensing like small bars - they have a high staff/patron ratio and are well managed, which means they do not cause the kind of alcohol-related harm to the community as a high concentration of taverns, nightclubs and bottle shops does (they have studied this, and apparently the density of liquor outlets in any one area has a positive correlation to alcohol-related harm in that area).
Its easy to see why people (other than liquor licensing officials) also like small bars - they are generally intimate and individualised, and finding a favourite bar can feel like a discovery - a local spot with personalised service and smiles. No lining up in rain behind bulky bouncers, line at the bar, no intense electro music (or lame 80s and 90s “popular” dance tunes), and less chance of getting glassed.
Perth’s small bars sit somewhere in between what you could expect to find in Melbourne or Sydney. Melbourne deregulated its liquor licensing a few years ago, which lead to not just a big increase in small bars but an increase in larger drinking holes and bottle shops, which has had a related increase in alcohol-related harm across the City. Melbourne is now trying to impose restrictions on these places which seems to have had the unintended consequence of destroying live-music venues. Sydney on the other hand is only now introducing small bars, and to have a couple of drinks at the moment will usually mean having a substantial meal at a restaurant, or heading to the nearest large tavern.
Here’s some of my favourite small bars in Perth:
Located in the heart of Perth’s unofficial Asian strip (William Street), 399 Bar is a long, narrow bar with booth seating along one side, and the tiniest of courtyards out the back. 399 does not have a cocktail list, but will gladly make up any drink you can think of any many more you can’t. Mulled wine features in winter, as does their hot chocolate. They also do a mean coffee, which comes highly-recommended by the visionary Nat.
*www.relativemagazine.com launched their apparel at Ezra Pound last year. This is their photo.
To get to Ezra Pound you’ll need to traverse a narrow, sometimes smelly lane in Northbridge, or cross the potholed carpark from the train line (but don’t park there as it is ridiculously expensive). Once inside, Ezra Pound is a delight; abstract lighting and exposed brick walls are the theme. Beers come in brown paper bags. Outside is plenty of seating, and you can order pizzas from next door and enjoy them with your drinks. Ezra Pound deserves plenty of respekt.
*i don't know what this but it features on 1907's website. It looks interesting
If it’s cocktails you’re after look no further than 1907. Hidden away in a basement on little-known Queen Street, 1907 exudes über-coolness but will happily serve you exquisite drinks. The pink bar is a winner.
Restaurant in front, bar out back is how Clarences rolls. It has an easy-to-miss façade on the heart of Mount Lawley’s Beaufort Street strip, but those who find it will be pleasantly surprised with the rear courtyard which is perfects for downing an icey-cold cider. All highs no lows here.
*thanks to the defectors website
Defector is the closest thing Perth has to a roof-top bar. (Where is our roof-top bar Perth? We have great weather for it, bring it!). It sits high above The Flying Scotsman, one of Mount Lawley’s popular drinking holes. Old-school charm and great views over Perth city is what Defector brings to the table, as well as an overall great place to get a drink and sit in a dark cosy corner (or sitting on the balcony watching the peeps mill around on the street below).
Windswept St Georges Terrace is at the centre of Perth’s business-orientated area, but luckily there is some shelter to be had from the wind by heading down narrow Howard Street. Andaluz is a super-popular tapas bar with a tiny entrance. It’s fancy and its expensive, but is great if you can get in early and score a table. Its next-door neighbour Helvetica is a great alternative - it features some of Yok’s work. The only problem is that there are not more of these small bars in the centre of Perth - these ones fill up very quickly!
Not content with populating Perth’s inner domains, small bars are slowly infiltrating the suburbs. The Cabin looks out from the upper floor of a shop on Mount Hawthorn’s main street, and has been decorated just like your ski cabin at home with deer heads and natural wooden tables. The balcony gives another nice view over Perth; good spot for a first date.
Opposite the Luna SX Cinemas in Fremantle, X-Wray feels like its been transported from Kuta, Bali (minus the Cold Chisel). Which is strange as there’s nothing tropical about Freo’s climate.
Rockingham Wine Bar
Perth’s forgotten city makes an attempt to remind everyone that they are here too. The Wine Bar is a tiny establishment that has been around before the liquor licensing reforms were put into place and does a small bar with simple gusto. Overlooking Rockingham Beach there seems to be no better place to relax with a glass of red, except maybe with a glass of sangria at the Rústico Tapas Bar that has opened up next door.
I can only look forward to seeing more intimate small bars set up in the future - bring it!