A new East End bar, headed-up by former Exeter Hotel veteran bartender Hamish Tregeagle, will open in December this year, specialising in classic cocktails and a splash of nostalgia.
A new bar called Smokelovers is opening at the old Smokelovers
The only remnants of tobacco retailer Smokelovers that exist in the Rundle Street shop that it spent half a century in are a retro sign out front and white arches located within.
Hamish Tregeagle spent more than 10 years working next door to the specialty store, first as a glassy and then as a bartender at institutional pub The Exeter Hotel.
244 Rundle Street, Adelaide 5000
Mon—Thurs: 3pm ’til midnight
Fri—Sat: 3pm ’til 2am
Sunday: 3pm ’til midnight
Smokelovers is slated to launch in December, 2021.
Five months ago, an opportunity to lease the empty 200sqm Smokelovers space presented itself. Hamish, wanting to level-up his ambitions as a hospitality professional, immediately jumped on it.
“I think there’s a gap in the East End. I’ve been here for 10 years, since February ’09,” says Hamish, while speaking inside the narrow, gutted venue he’s recently committed to turning into a thriving bar. “I’m creating something that I want in the East End.”
Opening in December, Smokelovers will be a classic cocktail and wine bar open every day of the week until late.
The mission statement is to be able to serve people a nice cocktail on Rundle Street in the late afternoon sunshine.
But Hamish doesn’t expect people to settle in. Instead, he wants to see people make plans to catch a film at Palace Nova Cinema or visit a neighbouring restaurant for a bite to eat. The aim is to draw people in who will then contribute to the East End economy.
Smokelovers will offer small plates, such as olives, but Hamish fervently believes in East End exceptionalism – especially when it comes to the range food on offer.
“I want people to come to have a drink, but I want them to go have dinner at Hey Jupiter, or go somewhere else for dinner,” Hamish says. “This idea of being like a place to meet up and move on.”
Hamish jokes the purpose of the bar is to address the devastating cocktail drought on this side of town.
“The idea that at 3pm in the East End you can’t get a Martini is an outrage,” Hamish says, semi-seriously. “I think that should be available.”
The drinks menu will rotate every four weeks or so, but will be “yummy drinks focussed”, featuring classic cocktails, such as Martinis and Margaritas, but also imported and seasonal wines.
As a nod to Smokelovers’ former owners, Denise Politis-Savadis and her husband Chris Savidis, there will be a smoky mezcal Margarita on offer.
Hamish influence on the East End’s drinks offering has already been felt by patrons of the Ex next door. Though never managing to develop a cocktail menu for the pub, he has made some minor edits.
“The Exeter Hotel didn’t have fresh lime when I started. That came in five or six years ago,” Hamish says.
“Cranberry juice was the most recent addition.”
These are only tongue-in-cheek digs at his current workplace and future neighbour. Hamish made sure to seek the blessing of his boss, Exeter owner Kevin Gregg, before signing the lease next door.
Hamish sees that the offering he’ll have at Smokelovers will be different enough not to be in direct competition. Plus, he’ll still be financially contributing to his old workplace in some form.
“I’m going to be eating more Exeter schnitzels than ever,” he says.
While many well-patronised watering holes around postcode 5000 attract people through aesthetic and character, Hamish hopes Smokelovers will win people over through nostalgia.
The iconography and tradition he has access to through this space is a way for Hamish to demonstrate his appreciation for the CBD businesses and brands that make the city what it is. That’s why he’s kept the name.
“It was called Smokelovers and still is called Smokelovers,” Hamish says.
The 80-capacity venue will also include indoor and outside seating, making the most of the space left absent with the relocation of retail store Dangerfield to the other side of the street.
Sam Weckert from Tiger Build is leading Smokelovers’ interior fit-out, with a design aesthetic leaning heavily into a brown and green colour palette, mostly executed with timber materials.
“There will be long bench seating along the sides with quite high seating,” Hamish explains. “Smokelovers is such as weird, long skinny little place, but we’re making it work.”
Although the coronavirus has seen many hospitality business in the CBD teetering ever closer to the brink of closure – or outright falling into it – Hamish says it was the pandemic that made him realise how much he loved hospitality.
In particular, he has a soft spot for seeing people grow and forge new relationships on the customer side of the bar.
“The idea of working from home or things like that does not interest me at all,” says Hamish, who is also a University of Adelaide engineering and architecture graduate.
“I really like interactions with people. It’s bizarre. The idea of opening a business in this time is bizarrely perfect.”
For updates on Smokelovers as the project progresses, follow along on Instagram.