In the ‘50s, The Savoy was Long Jetty’s ritzy cinema. A place where locals went for old-school entertainment.
Now, more than forty years after the cinema closed, The Savoy has been reborn as a bar, once again providing a social setting for locals.
While it’s no longer a cinema per se, the cinema-themed bar is exactly the right kind of kitsch to fit in with Long Jetty’s arty new scene.
The Savoy name has even been etched on the side of the building so it looks right at home with all the other edgy street art that is helping to turn the Jetty strip into one of the Coast’s coolest cultural hubs.
Now that the bar is open and the red velvet curtain hangs once again, it seems like a no-brainer to turn part of this retro cinema into a bar but Ben Pearce, one of the four local blokes behind the project, said the reality of breathing new life into a derelict Heritage-listed building presented its share of challenges.
“It wasn’t an easy road – we’ve had a few hurdles to jump. Getting the pigeons out was good fun,” Ben says, his tongue firmly planted in his cheek.
Downstairs in what is now the bar, there was a guy using the space to shape skateboards and upstairs in the mezzanine level of the old cinema, it was a pigeon’s nest.
Luckily Ben’s brother-in-law and business partner Guy Sullivan is handy with the tools, and his sister Angela has a flair for interior design (ladies, you can see her handiwork when you pop into the powder room).
As well as being the team sweeper, Ben is the one with the hospitality background with his 16 years in the industry including stints at some of Sydney’s most infamous night spots from the Beach Road Hotel at Bondi to Cargo Bar and Kit & Kaboodle at the Cross.
“Bringing the bar to life has been a collective of individual strengths. Everyone had their own niche but we all collaborated on the design and colours,” Ben says.
On the plus side, retaining the charm and character of the original cinema meant there were less decisions to be made.
“We wanted to recreate what was already here and make it what it was originally meant to be – the re-emergence of an old theatre into its prime,” Ben says.
The façade was painted the same ‘woodland grey’ colour after they were able to colour match it from council records, the exposed bricks in the cinema bar are original, as are the wall lights, and the green wall and burgundy ceiling were also matched to the original art deco colour scheme.
The high window, that used to be the entryway for the pigeons, is where the projection box used to sit.
The stairs and landings haven’t changed but in place of the original cinema seats there are burgundy booths and opulent ottomans, perfect for group get togethers or date nights.
The black and brass hand rails in the cinema are new but the balustrade lining the stairs either side is original. It just had to be moved a smidge higher and covered with perspex to meet modern day OH&S requirements.
And you can see some of the old floor joists recycled in the timber bar top, tables and stools.
The name, of course, had to stay.
“It couldn’t be anything other than The Savoy,” Ben says.
“This building meant a lot to the area in the 50s. We’d be silly not to embrace the history.”
Moving through the building from the gold-handled black doors at the street level entrance, through the bar and up to the mezzanine level, each area has its own distinct personality that comes together with lashings of the sort of old-world glamour that’s synonymous with the Savoy name.
There’s velvet everywhere from the pink stools in one corner to the couches that perch under a neon sign that spells Love is a many splendoured thing – the first movie to screen at the cinema back in its hey day.
In homage to its history, The Savoy still hosts movie nights and in line with the Savoy’s classic hospitality, there are old fashioned drinks carts and table service available upstairs.
Every Wednesday, classics like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Dirty Dancing show on a wall behind the trademark red curtain, with a projector and surround sound transforming the 100-seat mezzanine into a modern cinematic experience.
On other nights, the curtain becomes a movie prop with more traditional bar entertainment in the guise of a DJ or local musicians.
While the menu features more than 20 craft beers, espresso martinis and Pimms on tap, and share food such as pizza and cheese plates, there are still boxes of popcorn on offer.
In a throwback to movie slurpees, there are frozen margaritas and rum punch. After all, the new bar has been built where the old candy bar used to be located.
The movie posters from ‘60s surf films have been donated by the May family who own the building and run the Pawnbrokers downstairs. Brothers Tyson and Matt May are also involved in the bar.
Just as the cinema was part of a revival of Long Jetty back in the 50s, it’s fitting that the rebirth of The Savoy is happening during the suburb’s latest renaissance.
“We saw an opportunity to complement the quirky nature of the other venues in Long Jetty and feel lucky to be part of this community,” Ben says.
Even though the new Savoy is a bar, not a cinema, families are welcome (kids just need to be accompanied by an adult), and it’s best for groups to make bookings on the weekend.
The Savoy is open every day for drinks and bites, as well as lunch on the weekends.
Originally published in Belle’s Coastal Lifestyle magazine – check out the summer issue here