The team behind the Parkside Hotel's transformation have brought back Brompton's historic Gaslight Tavern, launching a bright, elegant and modern pub under its original title: The Brickmakers Arms.
The return of the Brickmakers Arms
When CityMag visits the former Gaslight Tavern on Chief Street, it is close to emerging from the chrysalis of a significant transformation.
The whirring of power tools echoes out of the front door, above which signage proclaims the hotel’s new name: Brickmakers Arms.
It is, in fact, a very old name – Brickmakers Arms is the original moniker of the 1800s pub, before it was changed to the Gaslight Hotel, in reference to the former gasworks utility just across the road.
CityMag is greeted by the new pub’s owners, and it’s immediately clear to us they’re weathered renovators who aren’t shy of rolling up their sleeves. As the pub’s Friday, 31 March opening date inches closer, they generously drop tools for a quick chat.
Co-owner Katie Pettigrew emerges splattered in streaks of paint, having rendered and painted the interior walls herself.
Meanwhile, one of her fellow business partners, Scott Lawrie, is using a paint roller to seal the raw timber of a gorgeous oak bar top that was built by his brother, another co-owner, Jason Lawrie.
As Scott rolls his way along the timber, Katie talks about how they came to acquire the venue.
“Scott is my best mate,” says Katie. “We worked in pubs together years and years ago. Then Michael (Pettigrew, Katie’s husband) and I became a couple and we really wanted to own a pub.”
Katie and Michael, with brothers Scott and Jason, took on the Hotel Wright Street as their first hotel renovation as a group.
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That project was done on the smell of an oily rag while living and working in the hotel, but it allowed them to move on to the Parkside, which was also a great success.
“Scott and Jason had owned pubs previously, and together the four of us bought the Hotel Wright Street and we did that reno together. We loved the renovation process and that kickstarted things for us,” says Katie.
“Money was very tight in the early days and we didn’t have the connections with tradespeople that we do now.
“We enjoy the process much more now because we’ve become better at it, and we’ve got all these great tradespeople who we work with.”
Selling the Parkside during COVID allowed them to purchase the Gaslight, in which they saw great potential.
“It needed some love with traditional pub carpet and dark colours. It was dated,” says Katie.
“Scott’s renovated a few houses and he’s great at looking past the interiors and seeing what’s possible.
“We really liked the pub and being able to buy the leasehold and the freehold was a decider for us.”
They brought on board chef and friend Dan Brenton as a fifth business partner, who had previously worked at the Parkside and Franklin hotels.
Walls have been pulled down, windows that were closed over with gyprock have been re-opened and gaming machines have been removed.
After one year of work, the light and airy modern hotel is now unrecognisable from its former self, and carries similarities to the Parkside Hotel but in a more intimate layout.
“People who have been here before are going to come in and be very surprised; we’re certainly excited by it,” says Katie.
“The Gaslight had been trading as a live music venue with a stage in the front corner. Some people will be sad to see that gone, but we’re not really a live music venue. We’re all about food and beverage.
“It’s been a massive project but we’re finally there.”
A beer garden is still under construction as a second phase of the project. The garden will include a fly roof, grass area and a brick wall to minimise sound pollution.
Families will be a focus, inspired by the owners’ own experiences of going out to hotels with young children.
“We’ve all got kids, so we understand people in that phase of life,” says Katie.
A family room and outdoor area is still under construction and will be completed as part of the second stage.
“The hotel is all one space; it’s not closed off into sections,” says Katie.
“The dining space is quite narrow, but I think it will be quite cosy at night. It has a burgundy bench seat that runs the whole length of the room, with carpet and a fireplace.
“It’s much more contemporary, but we are still a pub – which is what we love doing. We don’t want to be anything but.”
A heritage-listed brick chimney has been kept and stands near the bar as a nod to the hotel’s history, while a large new kitchen has been built as part of an extension.
Food will include pub classics with modern dishes and a rotating specials board, while the hotel will also offer its own house-made sodas and pre-mixes.
Hotel visitors will often find the publicans pouring beers or taking orders. Katie says that’s the part they enjoy most about working in hotels.
“The Parkside was so good for us and the local people were so supportive that it was lovely and busy,” she says. “We hope we can replicate that success here; time will tell.”