For many, 2020 has exploded the idea of consistency and strategic planning. In the case of Triple 1 Three, the parent business of Otherside Brewing Co and live entertainment venue Freo.Social, it’s been quite a ride.
Guy Southern talked to Triple 1 Three CEO Al Taylor about the challenges of the past year and how to take a brewery and venue experience on tour.
Like the majority of Australian businesses, the past year has been one of adaptation and, on reflection for the lucky / savvy, growth. Nearly a year to the day from its grand opening, Triple 1 Three’s Freo.Social went into hibernation, with the team reconsidering its intent, while sibling Otherside pushed forward – and other opportunities for both emerged in places they didn’t expect.
“Coming out of COVID in WA, I’d been working on this idea that there are all these places that have shut during COVID," Al says, "and there’s all these commercial properties, all over the place.
“We’ve got our festival experience, we’ve got our brand experience, and we can identify a location that maybe doesn’t have anything, or that may have lost something, and we can deliver an Otherside experience for a period of time, and see how it goes.”
The first fruits of this thinking opens tomorrow (November 26) in Subiaco, with Welcome to the Otherside bringing their beers and hospo experience to a pop-up location for three weeks of good booze, food, music and art.
The inspiration for the new venture may have been of the moment, however there had already been enough interest in expanding the Otherside experience around the greater Perth, as Al explains.
“Lots of people have said, ‘Why don’t you build a brewery North of the (Swan) river?', and at one point it was a really good idea, but we weren’t in a position to do it. And there’s also logistics challenges like having Rhys (Lopez, head brewer) drive all over the place to brew beer.
“Now we can market test a location, that’s a good bit of live research for a future permanent location, and you can just move it around. And it’s great for the community.”
More broadly, Al notes the growing cultural opportunities as a result of the pandemic’s social fallout.
“I think that commercial property owners need to be more creative with their dealings. Maybe I’ve got my ‘Activate Perth’ hat on, but I’d say that one of the challenges is that there’s lots of this stuff that’s owned by people that don’t really care, and just let it sit there idly.
"There’s this dual responsibility of activating communities, and you’ve seen what’s happened with Beaufort Street [Mt Lawley], and Subiaco: the commercial gets in the way of the cultural and you get this problem.
“This is what’s happened with Subi. There’s nowhere really for people to come and connect, but if you go to the Subi farmers markets it’s incredible. Everyone is there, there’s food and music, and it’s throbbing. Subi is a fantastic community, so what if you gave the people of Subi that in the evening?
"It doesn’t need to be over-engineered, just provide a place.”
He adds: “Our business is not just about beer; it’s about finding ways to connect people, and we’d done a lot research into places like this around the world.”
Al cites Budapest's "ruin bars" Szimpla Kart and Mika Kart as inspiration, as well as Berlin’s Urban Spree, Philadelphia’s Independence Beer Garden, and Australian examples like Welcome to Thornbury and Grounds of Alexandria.
“We’ve called it Welcome to the Otherside because it’s that moment in time where you move from one part of the day to another. The moment after that first beer signifies that you’re at the other part of the day, you’ve stepped through to the other side. It’s where you leave behind your full on day, crazy week, hellish year, and it’s where you can have real time, and be present.”
Welcome to the Otherside’s 263¾ address continues Al’s playful numerical history, one that has taken in communications / branding agency 303, Triple 1 Three, and stints as a drummer; in the narrow, theatrical entry to the venue, punters are welcomed with six eighth notes per bar: a waltz.
In this signature, what appears to be disruption is actually far more familiar, timely and homespun, an idea echoed in Freo.Social’s 2020 renaissance.
“We got to operate for a whole year, and literally shut down the week after the first birthday," Al says.
“We were doing a lot of stuff at Freo.Social, a lot of our own shows, and it was starting to come together, but it wasn’t quite right. And, as a result, we are repositioning it.
"We’ve shut down the microbrewery, because it was kind of too much of two different things. It really is a place for music, and that’s what we are going to gravitate towards, and we’re doing a lot more work around that.
“We’ve opened up for Friday, Saturday and Sundays, and we’re just getting those right. We can’t get any national acts over at the moment, so that’s been a challenge. And it’s not at its full operating capacity, or potential. So, we just wanted to build the foundation and get that right.
“However, all the shows we’ve had have sold out, but that’s at a reduced 350 capacity. We’ve just had Pond play, and those guys could have sold out a week. We just have to get back to full capacity and then we can and then we can start doing other stuff.”
Back in Subiaco, Welcome to the Otherside features a children's play area, a stage with live music and a double storey container bar with a Vasse Felix wine bar on top, plus a food truck and two catering stations. Punters can expect live street art via the Corner Gallery, who have facilitated the art which adorns the location.
Welcome to the Otherside Subiaco launches on November 26, at 263¾ Hay Street, Subiaco, for three weeks.
Photo artwork credit: Boy Swallows Universe artwork by @_sambloor & @luke_odonohoe