Manly’s iconic Wharf Bar has been taken over by new owners with a fresh agenda.

Brisbane based Artemus Group bought Manly Wharf in a deal worth around $110m in April. Artemus Group operates the Howard Smith Wharves precinct along the Brisbane River. Director Adam Flaskas said Manly Wharf represented a unique opportunity to expand their operation into the Sydney market.

“Manly Wharf represents an incredible opportunity for the Group — we want to bring our energy, community focus and vision to Manly,” said Mr Flaskas at the time of the acquisition.

Most of the 20 tenancies at Manly Wharf are not directly impacted by the change of ownership, but one aspect of the acquisition was taking over operation of the Wharf Bar, which they have now relaunched with a new menu.

Dean Romeo from Manly Wharf Bar

Artemus Group Brand Director Dean Romeo (image above) is part of a management team sent to take over operations. Mr Romeo spent the past six years as Marketing Manager for Felons Brewing Co, a craft brewery operating from Howard Smith Wharves in Brisbane.

“I’ve been in the beer industry in Australia for 15-years now, I started at Little Creatures in Fremantle in 2009. I met Adam [Flaskas] in 2018 and we ended up getting together and really enjoying each other’s company and each other’s values. He brought me on, and we opened Felons Brewing Co in Brisbane in November 2018.

“Last year, we began conversations about Manly Wharf coming up for sale and the guys going for it. Lo and behold, they pulled it off. My time is split between Brisbane and here, but I’m basically living here now,” said Mr Romeo.

Manly Wharf Bar

One of the first orders of business according to Mr Romeo was to adjust the balance of the venue, to be less reliant on tourism as a source of patrons and focus more on the local community.

“We’re really sensitive to the local community. The Northern Beaches and Manly more specifically is such an incredible location. The first priority for us was making sure that we’re sending a really clear message to the community that we’re here for them.

“We value what this community values. So we’ve set up some partnerships, including one with LocalKind Northern Beaches, which used to be called Community Northern Beaches, the Manly Life Saving Club, and a range of other local community groups.

“We’ve set up a meat tray raffle every Sunday here at Manly Wharf Bar. It’s $3 for a raffle ticket, or two for five bucks. It’s a gorgeous CopperTree Farms meat tray, they are an incredible local supplier of high welfare meats. Last Sunday, we raised $450,” said Mr Romeo.

Manly Wharf Bar

According to Mr Romeo, taking ownership of an iconic local venue is being treated as a big responsibility, with changes carefully considered.

“The last thing we want is to come in, radically change things and for everyone to say, ‘Oh, we don’t like this’.

“But the menu wasn’t really working. The percentage of food sales was lower than we normally see in our venues, so we immediately saw that as an opportunity. In our venues, we think a healthy mix of food and beverages contributes to the safety environment.

“Then on the weekends, this venue became a bit of a nightclub. There’s some merit in great live music and having a dance, but we want to gently elevate that in any way that we can and make sure that we’re working with quality musicians and that the music is of a particular calibre.

“The day that we took over, we implemented 24-hour security for the whole precinct, which didn’t exist beforehand. We want to make this a really nice family-friendly destination, like it always was, and always has been,” explained Mr Romeo.

Manly Wharf Bar

In addition to a revamped menu under Executive Chef Chris Augustyn, Artemus have also brought changes to the beverage list. Some things have not changed however, with Mr Romeo proudly stating they managed to retain most of the staff in the changeover.

“The beverage list is really elevated. We’ve got a collection of great NSW wine producers, and we’ve got some of the Felons beers on tap, which is absolutely delicious. We’ve still got some of the old favourites, like Hahn Super Dry is still on tap, so we’re not wiping everything out.

“The culture of the place was really important to us. The team have done such an incredible job up until us taking over, and we let them know that. We worked really hard to keep everybody and had 90-95 percent staff retention.

“I have been in this game for long enough now to know that these businesses exist because of the people that work in them and how they connect with the people that come and visit them,” said Mr Romeo.

Manly Wharf Bar

Those staying with the business included the previous chef, but the kitchen (image above) is one area that has seen focus on change under new management.

“Corey Costelloe has been actively consulting with us. He was previously the Head Chef of Rockpool Bar and Grill. He’s worked with Chris Augustyn, the new Executive Chef. Lawrence, the chef that worked with the business beforehand, has stayed on as well as two of our top dogs in the kitchen from Brisbane.

“All five of those have come together and said this is the new direction. Manly is all about Mediterranean meets laid back surf village, let’s lean into these kinds of cuts of meat, this kind of menu architecture.

“Let’s cook everything in a way that’s wholesome, uncomplicated and simple. Just let the ingredients shine, because we source the finest ingredients available to us, and put it on a plate and let people enjoy,” said Mr Romeo.

Manly Wharf Bar

The menu includes a range of seafood, burgers, premium cuts of meat, pizzas (dough made with organic local flour and fermented for 36-hours), salad bowls and desserts. Beverages include Australian wines, spirits, beers, cocktails, non-alcoholic alternatives, juices, soft drinks, tea and coffee.

Wharf Bar is located at Manly Wharf, East Esplanade, Manly. It is open 11.00am until late, seven days a week, and no booking is required.

Images: Northern Beaches Advocate

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