Bartenders, are they not the socially elite council of our interdependent society? With wit and charm so sharp it would slice through the most awkward of Tinder dates like a knife through soft cheese? Do they not hold social graces slicker than a swan, their charisma parting the floundering waterways of a room as they glide around it?
From my experience, yes they are, yes they do. They represent the upper echelon and social barometer of being ‘cool as fuck’ but still make you feel like you have all your shreds of dignity in place even if you don’t. So how then, does someone with social anxiety become not just a bartender but a bar owner, twice?
Meet Flynn McLennan, owner of new Darlinghurst delight, The Long Goodbye and Surry Hills Japanese gem, Kagura.
Shake it off
I go to meet Flynn at the Long Goodbye on a Thursday afternoon, which is basically Friday in my books. Pedestrians are already plying themselves with cocktails and fancy eats up and down Stanley St, it’s good to see the iconic strip in full swing.
Flynn is behind the bar with co-owner Dennis, they’re laughing and throwing some quotes or lines at each other, which I’ll later learn is a discussion about their 5 top romance films of all time. We find a seat and Flynn begins to explain how he got into the business of bartending.
“I was very socially awkward as a teenager. I’m not very good at talking about something if I’m not doing something with my hands. When I was younger if I went to parties I’d actually take along like a portable coffee machine and I’d make espresso martinis. I had like a duffle bag and would just walk around with it. I basically just googled and youtubed how to make cocktails and became better and better at it.”
Even as we sink back into one of the many sumptuous leather couches placed around the bar, Flynn doesn’t really seem comfortable chatting away until he gets behind the tools.
“I actually have ADHD and if I’m just talking I get sidetracked and my brain flies off, so that’s why if I’m doing something with my hands I can concentrate. It’s like an anchor, it keeps me focused enough to actually maintain a conversation.”
To theme or not to theme
While film is a huge part of the DNA at The Long Goodbye, aptly named after Raymond Chandler’s novel, one could be mistaken into thinking the bar is based on a theme, maybe film noir or something equally 1940s.
“Dennis and I are both massive film nerds. We met at Uncle Ming’s when I worked there and he was one of my regulars. We really like older films and, in particular, I’m a big fan of the gimlet, which is a really simple, old school cocktail and the main character in the Long Goodbye, Phillip Marlowe, drinks them. It’s his drink.”
“The thing about a theme bar, and I’ve worked in theme bars, is that they’re a little bit boxed in, which is great because they take you to another place and I love them for that reason, but they’re also a bit locked in to whatever style they choose.
Play the long game
The Long Goodbye now inhabits the same space that was once the very popular Hazy Rose where many of Sydney’s best bartenders have done their dash – Adam Corkside, Nikita Ward to name a few. Flynn and his team have decidedly left the interiors untouched and instead chosen to focus on curating cocktails to the individual customer.
“We just wanted to do an old school bar. We wanted to be a little more customer focused and simple. For example, we don’t really have a cocktail menu, that’s something that no one really does in Sydney. We wanted everything to be tailor made for the customer.
And, at the end of the day it’s about the long game for Flynn, “We’re not aiming to be the best new bar in Sydney suddenly, but more hoping that in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, we’re still here. I’m ok with seeing how it evolves naturally.”
It’s not easy to take over a space that has been so loved by regulars and locals alike, but the team at The Long Goodbye embrace its past and welcome those old regulars and new with the same enthusiasm they might be accustomed to.
As Flynn says, no one wants to get old quick.
Head first into the future
While Flynn is all about taking things slow, he also says he’s all about jumping in the deep end. It can be risky running two hospitality businesses in Sydney’s current food and drink landscape, but as someone that seriously practised martial arts for many years, Flynn knows there’s no reward without risk and hard work.
“If I say I’m going to do something I usually just do it. When you’re going to do something sometimes the best way to do it is to just dive right in. You won’t actually drown. I think something like 80% of hospitality businesses go out of business in the first year. My first one hasn’t yet and I don’t think that’s down to luck.”
Why not swing past the Long Goodbye next time you’re on Stanley St in Darlinghurst, you’ll find Flynn at 1/83 Stanley St.
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