A party-starting bar, with a rooftop, smack in Chinatown – what business does Union Electric have being really, really, good? It’s common knowledge that most CBD venues with similar natural advantages are content with steadfast mediocrity, coasting on the reliable business of office workers desperate for a pint and some vitamin D.
Yet a brief glance at the team CV quickly obviates any doubt that the narrow alleyway bar would be anything but legit, starting with bossman Huw Griffiths, who’s clocked time at major players like Madame Brussels, the Royal Saxon and Collins Quarter. He and his business partner Shane Whiteley have taken that depth of experience and built a team around it, in the process creating something with both broad appeal and a distinctive identity.
The bar champions fresh produce, each day pressing, juicing and infusing all manner of fruits, herbs and botanicals. They give extra vivacity to cheeky tiki cocktails and quenching highballs (remember those) like the light-and-bright Kum Den Botanica, in which gin, apple, lime, cucumber, elderflower and micro herbs taste plausibly healthy, though on sticky days it’s difficult to beat the quench of rum or whisky simply served tall over fresh apple juice.
Union Electric’s success is in no small part due to their ceaselessly energetic team, a tight-knit crew whose genuine bonhomie and affection for each other spreads over and across the bar. You’d be hard pressed to find a group more welcoming and accommodating, both towards their customers and each other. The team empowers the passions of individual staff, which is why for a good-times venue they’ve got a formidable wine list, and they promote from within – for example, with Ella Neilson being tapped to manage the new upstairs gin garden.
The major good vibes emanating from Heffernan Lane are a delicious pudding that prove the dividends of a positive staff culture. Both in front of and behind the bar, people find a place there and tend to stay a while, creating bonds and camaraderie that turn what could easily have been just another faceless CBD spot for a drink into a second home.