Odd Culture Group has continued its expansion program, with the opening of Spon a new wine bar and bottle shop on King Street in the Sydney suburb of Newtown.

Customers are now able to enjoy a range of eclectic and rare wines, beers and other drinks by the glass, which are also available to takeaway or order online.

To mark the launch, Spon will be serving up $6 glasses of Pét-nat, orange, or chilled red wine for the rest of August and all of September, as well as half price corkage. Guests can also expect staff to be a bit trigger happy and open some very exciting bottles from the cellar.

James Thorpe, CEO of Odd Culture Group said, “We loved having the bottle shop but we have wanted to evolve and expand the concept for a long time. The spirit of Spon is to make the inaccessible or esoteric into the easily consumed and understood and increase the level of interaction and knowledge sharing with our guests which is our favourite part.”

Spon will feature a daily open-bottle list of 12 (primarily) wines, large-format ales and ciders, that will be available by the glass for anyone to try until it runs out. Two wines will be chosen by the house (a white and a red) and the others selected by guests over the course of each day. Any bottle in the shop can be nominated, with certain amount of curation by staff to ensure a healthy mix of varieties and price points.

Odd Culture said the intention with the open bottle list is to create a dynamic and exploratory experience for all kinds of guests who are keen to try a range of different products at a much more accessible cost and availability than you’d normally find.

Group Beverage Manager, Jordan Blackman, said: “The concept lends itself to being able to open some really cool, rare and exciting stuff that wouldn’t normally make it on by the glass lists in your standard bars or restaurants.

“While there will always be a few sessionable and approachable wines on pour that won’t break the bank, I can guarantee there will be depth to the glasses available, likely in the realm of Loire legend Jean-Pierre Robinot and Jura icon Ganevat.

“We’ll also be able to open and pour some epic beer and cider by the glass that would normally only sit by the bottle – everything from local favourites such as Wildflower to international cult brewers like Brasserie Fantome from Belgium and the extremely rare Brasserie Ammonite hailing from Burgundy, France. Choose your own adventure.”

The bar features a communal, French oak table plus four outdoor tables on King Street, with food available alongside a glass of wine, dishes include Spanish Yellowfin Tuna with capers and potato chips, charcuterie with LP’s saucisson, nduja and terrine, a range of cheeses, beer bread and ‘Odd Cultured’ butter – with some secret items in the works.

Spon is a venue that Thorpe has been wanting to open for almost three years. The original concept for Odd Culture Newtown was to be a hybrid bar and bottle shop inspired by similar venue models that are everywhere in Victoria and other cities around the world, however licensing red tape meant this was not feasible in New South Wales at that time. As a result, the Odd Culture Bottle Shop opened in a location three doors up to the Odd Culture restaurant and bar, and Thorpe had to eventually take his original concept to Melbourne, having opened Odd Culture Fitzroy in June this year.

After two and a half years of back and forth negotiations with Liquor & Gaming NSW, Thorpe has finally been able to land on a new ‘hybrid’ model – two different licence applications cohabitating in the one space, in a way that Liquor & Gaming NSW are finally comfortable with. This has paved the way for other new venues to do the same, most recently Frankie & Mo’s in the Blue Mountains.

Thorpe said: “Being able to finally open the doors to Spon is due to the landmark decision to allow these cohabitating licenses and a sign that the regulatory environment is shifting and red tape is finally starting to be lifted. Until now, there hasn’t really been a feasible license model to allow guests to buy something from a bottle shop, open it, and enjoy it in store. NSW is slowly starting to catch up with our interstate friends, and Liquor & Gaming NSW are responding more flexibly to innovations in businesses. The two-license model is convoluted and contrived, so very NSW, but it works, and we’re excited to finally get a cab off the rank, and be able to operate a business of this type in Sydney.

“For as long as I can remember, the processes and lead times put in place by these organisations work completely against diversifying the night-time economy. Anyone wanting to open a new business and introduce a new experience to New South Wales has been at an inherent disadvantage.

“It’s exciting to feel like the tide is changing and these organisations are starting to empower venues to operate in a more human-engaged and flexible way.”

Picture gallery of Spon: (pic credit – Yusuke Oba)

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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