If you know Nick White, owner of SILY on Kent St in Sydney’s CBD, then you might casually know him as the colourful gentleman with a love for wildstyle graffiti, old school disco and of course, telling a great story over a boozy brunch. You may know him more intimately as the instigator of dress-up parties and the goofy civil engineer who can play the Sax. Or perhaps, you simply know him as the guy from that band “The Little Fat Kids” who decidedly ran to their peak in the later years of Fort Street Highschool.
One step into Since I Left You and you well and truly have a window into Nick’s world. A relaxed cobbled courtyard decked out in murals and fairy lights brings a New York style vibe to the centre of the city. It’s a place where Nick is undoubtedly himself, where tunes reign supreme and the good times follow.
But it didn’t all begin this way. We found out how Nick transformed SILY into a bar that felt ‘more like him’.
GO WITH YOUR GUT
If you had visited Since I Left You prior to its makeover, you would have seen it in all its art deco glory. A pristine, swanky cocktail bar that opened out of Sydney’s small bar beginnings in 2011.
“I went into partnership with an old friend of mine. We built this bar. And we thought we created something the city was wanting. The obvious choice was a swanky cocktail bar and we went down this art deco style road which suited the surroundings of the city. But when our friends started coming in they were like “this is not at all what I expected from you guys”.
Of course, being at the forefront of the new small bar scene meant that the bar did very well at the time. “Things were pretty easy back then. Sydneysiders were so infatuated with the idea that we had heaps of people coming to us.”
But, Nick himself even admits, “It never really felt right”.
KEEP IT INTERESTING
Sitting with Nick I get the instant vibe that this is a guy that knows how to have a good time – and the rebrand of Since I Left You to ‘SILY’ with all its colour and personality definitely reflects that.
“I had this idea that I wanted to open a small bar. I was actually travelling and I was inspired by a place on New Years Eve in downtown Vancouver, (potentially under the influence of some illegal substances). I remember just discovering this bar that had a club down stairs and I walked down and the DJ was spinning on vinyl playing Earth Wind and Fire, On Your Face – a fave disco song of mine. I was with a mate of mine and we just looked at eachother like “Is this really happening”. Then and there I was like “I’m opening a bar in the city, that sells pizza by the slice and just plays disco”.
Naturally, you can guess it didn’t quite work out like that. But after four years into owning the bar, a partnership split and a striking epiphany, Nick decided to completely re-haul the bar.
“I just wanted to inject as much of myself into this bar as possible and make it more interesting. I have enough faith in what I like, so we went down this party genre, hip hop route. I was stuck on capturing that vibe – the early hip hop essence.”
ALL ABOUT THE WHY
Nick grew up in Sydney’s inner west where casual Saturdays were spent dabbling in graffiti. Of course, he admits his own creativity stopped at tagging but some of his childhood friends have grown up to become acclaimed street artists, with Fintan Magee putting his name to the two story mural in SILY’s courtyard and Scotty Marsh working his magic on the bar inside.
As Nick’s personal playlist, a mix of hip hop/disco/old school funk, winds its way through the place, you feel a little bit like you’re hanging in someone’s backyard, like any moment a neighbour might lean out the window and tell you to keep it down. It’s a refreshing juxtaposition to the hustle and bustle of the city street a laneway away.
The menu reads all comfort and food anyone would crave – Cheeseburger Toastie, Waffle cooked Hashbrowns and fried Halloumi served sweet. While the ‘A Single Plum, Floating in Perfume, Served in a Man’s Hat’ is simply enough for anyone that lives their lives for Simpson’s quotes.
“The large reason I wanted to do the refurb is to give people that live out of the city a reason to come in. I want to be a part of the bar movement changing the stigma of the CBD. We host fun events, SILY sessions, and Beats ‘n’ Brunch with bottomless cocktails which gets a great crew here on the weekends. It’s all backed by great music, which is a very understated part of me and SILY in general”.
It’s true that people buy why you do something not what you do.
DOWN TO BUSINESS, UP TO NO GOOD
When you are served by Nick or have the opportunity to have a chat or share a drink with him, SILY seems like a natural extension of his personality; laid back and fun, not trying to be anything it’s not. He’s someone that’s found a great balance between having a great time and getting shit done.
And after doing the hard yards over the last 6 years, you can tell he’s in a good place with the bar, one where every decision he makes he really backs himself. And he’s happy to lend an ear to anyone that may feel they’re in a similar position.
“I quite enjoy passing on whatever knowledge I have to people. As a civil engineer, a big part of me is problem solving and coming up with ingenious ways to resolve something. I don’t claim to be any expert, I only know what I’ve learnt and how to put that to good use.”
“Sometimes, you just have to listen to yourself a bit more and go with your gut feel”.
If you’d like to get to know Nick a bit more, be sure to pop down to Since I Left You on 338 Kent St in Sydney.