Canvas & Electric Avenue in the Gabba Village
Electric Avenue is the latest bar to grace the eclectic Woolloongabba strip, and they’re not a moment too soon.
liliLife was fortunate enough to attend the opening night which consisted of a little window shopping, toe-tapping and gin sipping. Amongst the whispers of equally keen guests and talking to Daniel Rodriguez - one of the owners - we gathered that it used to be an old hospital before it was an antique store, and now a bar. The antique store vibe seems to have never left, as Dan himself kitted out the place sourcing wares, furniture and trinkets from antique stores, his mum and grandma's houses and Gumtree.
The place is chock full of intrigued guests yet not overflowing, and on first impression, it looks to be the best bar you ever did see. It’s well balanced - not too much, but enough to fill the space that is there. Separate rooms feature different themes; downstairs is a perfectly curated vintage toy-stuffed children’s bedroom, through to the bigger dining room and the outside courtyard filled with English country garden artefacts, then upstairs where rabbit portraits adorn the staircase.
Through a cupboard there's a secret room (we won’t specify where) through which you walk and enter a red tinged speakeasy with more expertly bought tables to fit into small crannies and thin glass cabinets displaying an expertly curated collection of vintage bells. Not even the bathrooms were overlooked - the ladies’ has 6 mirrors for peering into yore for. The pressed metal finishing touches behind the toilets allude to expert bathroomery (that’s a word), and embroidery in photo frames to keep you company ties the bathroom fit out together nicely.
We sat down with Dan, one of the co-owners of Canvas and Electric Avenue to chat about the partners’ journey and a little secret-sharing, and this is what he had to say...
LL: How did you and Bodi (business partner) first meet?
D: Funny story, we first lived next door to each other - so next door neighbours from when we were kids, and then we went to school together, and we also played soccer together so we were good friends from the get go - from grade 7. Yeah. I’ve known him for a very long time, he was in industry a lot longer before me, he was the one who had all the experience. I always wanted to have my own place and I needed someone with the experience, someone I trusted and he was the perfect fit.
LL: Wow, that’s an amazing story - I don’t think many people can say they went into business with their childhood best friend, it’s kind of a perfect situation, you guys get to see each other all the time now.
D: Yeah we’re like a married couple now, it’s crazy.
LL: What’s been your journey so far, I know you touched on that a little bit just then but what was your first idea together and then what was your first business, and what took you from then to now?
D: I was living overseas for a while, living in Europe for about 3 years and my dream even before living overseas was to one day open up my own Tapas bar. So I came back and the journey was that there was a space available which was Canvas and we looked at it, and looked at a few other venues and we had an idea and saw the potential in Canvas by opening up the courtyard out back and putting in the kitchen and making the changes we needed to make. It was a big learning curve for the first 6-12 months, we were there 7 days a week trying to make it work and we stuck with it, it wasn’t easy at the start but we worked hard and 4 years later we’re still there. It also gave us an opportunity to grow just recently with our new place, Electric Avenue.
LL: Yeah and that’s amazing, your hard work has really paid off and it shows because both businesses are booming, you could say.
We actually went back to Electric Avenue with some friends about a week after the opening and it was so packed out, it seemed like it had been there for ages, it looked like it had been such a mainstay in Brisbane’s bar scene for years - it shows your customers are loyal and everyone followed you over the alleyway - the main drag of Woolloongabba to Electric Avenue.
LL: The next one is what made you get into the restaurateur and bar scene but you’ve sort of already answered that, you said you always wanted to do that?
D: Yeah for me, I was originally a graphic designer where I was behind a computer all the time and I didn’t have any hospitality experience at all but I always knew I enjoyed talking to people and making them feel comfortable and I wanted to be dealing with and meeting new people all the time so I thought the bar scene could be fun. I just gave it a go, I’m still there now. I’m working at Canvas and Electric Avenue where a lot of owners step back and let their staff run it, but I like being there especially on weekends and meeting the new customers and getting them to come back and turning them into regulars.
We’re very hands-on as owners, we like to hand select our staff as well, there could be the most talented bartender but if they don’t fit with the team then it doesn’t work so we make sure that all round we have this atmosphere behind the scenes as well as on the floor.
LL: What prompted your love of food and drink?
D: I’ve always loved my food, I don’t know what prompted it but...
LL: To get into the business of food and drink we should say…
D: I think it’s from a family thing because I’m very close with my family - my mum and my grandma, and she’s had a massive influence in my life. Food was always that thing where we’d come together every night and have a big meal. Alcohol - another side was that as soon as I was old enough to drink I just got a taste for it (laughs) I don’t know what it is.
LL: Fair enough, that would probably be our answer too.
D: I’m more about the family thing, for me with the food is that - and I think when you go to my venues it’s very apparent - it’s very family orientated in the sense that Canvas is all about sharing, and you go to Electric Avenue in the bistro and it’s all about big meals, and you can go with a group of friends or your family and have a good time.
LL: Absolutely. What’s your favourite of all your businesses, which one is the most “you”, or which one is the most quirky or different from yourself and what you would do?
D: Well I started with Canvas and it was one that we grew but the new venue - Electric Avenue - it was all my own concept, the whole design, the whole layout. I worked with our partner who’s a carpenter as well and the two of us pretty much came up with the whole concept - how we wanted to turn it into an antique store, and you can see it. We were there for the last six months again just going shopping and making the space work to really flow and really flipping the venue on its head in the sense of making it very detailed. If you look and walk around - every time you go in, you’ll notice something different and that for me is my dream. Canvas was a start, we worked hard, we saved and Electric Avenue is kind of like my dream venue in the sense that I always wanted to have a venue or a bar with a secret bar - a bar inside a bar.
LL: And yes you can tell, it’s a testament to your interior design skills, your curation - everything was absolutely perfect and well put together.
D: I think my graphic design skills came into it but it was a little bit of a fluke as well.
LL: If you could describe Electric Avenue in a phrase, what would it be?
D: It’s that old world feel, but it’s all about having fun. Stepping back in time but not taking it too serious and having fun. I want people to feel welcomed and just come in, have fun and feel like they’re entering a new world.
LL: And lastly - we know you’ve already touched on this but let’s pretend we never heard this. We’ve heard there’s a secret room in Electric Avenue - would you like to give us a little hint?
D: Follow the rabbit. (laughs) I’ve said too much. Come in and discover it for yourself. You can follow the rabbit at 23 Logan Rd, Woolloongabba QLD 4102.
Author: Alessia Castiglone