Walking through Cronulla Mall you might be lucky enough to run into the only legal "illegal" speakeasy in town! But unless you have been tipped off about its location, the signage at The Blind Bear (or lack thereof) certainly won't give it away.
Owner, Ben Lewis, stood firm and believed the philosophy, ‘build it and they will come’, even without extensive marketing and fanfare. Against the advice of business partners, he relied almost entirely on word of mouth to grow the business, just like in the 1920s prohibition era in Chicago.
Cronulla 2014 seems to love its speakeasy-inspired drinking den; since opening at the end of 2013, it has surpassed all expectations with frequent full houses, a raucous atmosphere, and the specialty deluxe dog and chicken wings flying out of the kitchen door!
Living stateside for 4 years in the middle of Colorado, Ben grew to love the honky tonk culture and set out to provide his local area with a taste of the fine American bar food he had experienced when living in Colorado, combining that with the best of Australian fare.
He spent many hours drawing designs while parked outside some promising venues, until one day one of those venues was put up for lease. Six months and some legal disputes later, he found himself with the premises and a small budget to get it into shape. Doing much of the renovation work himself, he opened The Blind Bear just six weeks later with empty pockets. But the cash tills soon started ringing.
Patrons were gob-smacked as they walked in to the depths of a 1920s prohibition-era speakeasy. Most of them had no idea what prohibition was, or what any of the classic cocktail and craft beer selections were. “The education began with talking people into trying things outside their comfort zone, and then having them bring their mates in to get them into the same experience,” explained Ben.
The bar features a selection of rotating Australian craft beers on tap, as well as a classic cocktail list with a few twists. In the kitchen, weekly trips to the local markets ensure a regular supply of the freshest fruit and vegetables. Local produce features heavily in Head Chef, Simon Cotter’s specialty – grilled smoked cheese kransky, which is housed in a soft white roll topped with caramelised onions, roasted capsicum and habanero relishes, all finished off with honey mustard mayo.