It was no mean feat turning the historic Royal Snack Bar at the Brisbane Showgrounds into The Bavarian Beerhaüs. By Frank Leggett
For years, the Royal Snack Bar at the Brisbane Showgrounds was the place to pick up a few dagwood dogs and a strawberry milkshake. However, the dramatic venue, a big open space with a soaring roof, was being, sadly, under-utilised. Lendlease, the owner of the Showgrounds, and Rockpool Dining Group came together to turn the site into The Bavarian Beerhaüs, a brash, friendly German-style beer hall.
“The original concept was to keep the heritage aspects of the Royal Snack Bar and import a German beer hall inside,” says Shane Dalton, general manager hospitality/construction at the Unita Group. Unita was well experienced in beer-hall design having also been involved with Rockpool’s Munich Brauhaüs at Southbank and The Bavarian at Chermside.
“Fortunately, the heritage issues were not too onerous. The only attributes we had to keep were the Royal Snack Bar sign and a pair of large red doors. Apart from that the site was a big glass box.”
Of course, designing inside a big glass box creates its own problems. For a start, nothing can be placed against the walls. Additionally, patrons expect a certain look and feel when dining in a German-inspired beer hall.
“We ran an old school, horseshoe-shaped bar right down the middle of the venue,” says Dalton. “It has 40 taps and serves 40 different products.”
The expansive space is made more manageable by dropping the lighting down low from the high ceiling. Over the bar is a Rockpool classic—the stein chandelier.
“It consists of racking with all the beer steins hung on it,” says Dalton. “It’s functional, putting the steins within easy reach of bar staff, and looks fantastic. We dressed it up with lighting, ropes and various bits and pieces.”
The tiled flooring is easy to clean and a hardy surface to cope with the large amount of foot traffic within the beer hall. The benches and bench seating are made of blackbutt timber and were designed by Unita.
“They might look like picnic tables but a lot of thought went into sizing and stability,” says Dalton. “Rockpool didn’t want to crowd the space and that sort of seating feels spacious but seats a lot of people. It’s also very easy to reconfigure for an event.”
There is a snack bar at one end serving free snacks between 4 and 6pm daily, including dagwood dogs, which is a nice connection to the venue’s origins. Ping-pong tables and foosball add to the happy atmosphere.
The noise of the crowd is dissipated by the sawtooth ceiling high overhead. During events, guests can sprawl out to a grassed area under a huge tree (without drinks—the area isn’t licensed).
“The Bavarian Beerhaüs is the exact opposite of a small, intimate venue,” says Dalton. “It’s big and exuberant and you’re probably going to end up drinking with people you’ve just met. It’s in the middle of a little entertainment precinct and they all work together rather than against one another. The place really has a great vibe.”