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Well Good: Diving Into UC’s Newest Student Bar

Beatrice Smith

As a recent graduate, I was intrigued when I heard there was a new bar open at the University of Canberra (UC). The art of university campus food and drink is a broad landscape with a narrow focus – there are a million ways to offer cheap services, but sometimes venues fall short of the (admittedly cynical) expectations of many uni students.

University students don’t like to be told what they want by big corporations, yet they don’t want to pay more than they absolutely have to. This sometimes forces smaller venues to drive up prices to keep their independence, indadvertedly turning students off the venue. Most students would rather pay for a drink in a dive bar ‘for the atmosphere’ than play adult in a shiny, sleek establishment where cocktails cost 20% of their weekly rent.

Into the fray of this landscape comes The Well, UC’s newest addition to its rapidly expanding campus.

“We were literally belt sanding until 2am,” says Pat Rose, the manager of The Well, describing the night before Groovin’ The Moo – The Well’s opening day.

Dark and somewhat mysterious, The Well is certainly visually appealing in the ‘less-is-more’ aesthetic of many new Canberra establishments. There’s street art on the walls, minimalist, functional furniture and realistically priced drinks; perhaps a welcome hangover from Pat’s time as co-owner of Chop Shop, the infamous and much missed dive bar that closed on Lonsdale Street earlier this year.

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Graff art by JRB

 

The Well and Chop Shop are different beasts, however, Pat says it wasn’t a conscious decision to diversify projects after the success of the latter. “After Chop I decided to take a break and went back into hospitality at AKIBA where I met [2iC at The Well] Duong Dai Vu. Then I got approached by Dave McCarthy who is the Student Engagement Officer at UC,” says Pat, explaining that the original idea for The Well was far from the reality we see today.

“The original concept was for a big white marble bar, with brass pendant lights,” says Pat, who took the concept in a different direction when he came on board.

Through Pat’s guidance, the bar is a durable thickly resined wood instead of marble, branded with The Well’s logo that Pat hopes will become the bar’s icon: “the brand is the icon, the icon is the brand”.

Designed by current Adobe student representative for the ACT Mr. Manok, the cheeky logo seems to summarise The Well’s aesthetic – clean, simple and understated. “At the moment we’ve got [logo] t-shirts that we sell…eventually we’ll do snap backs and beanies,” says Pat.

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The sturdy bar tables and matching stools were designed by Pat and constructed across campus. The bar’s floor is polished concrete, stretching widely from the entrance to the back of the bar where a couple of pool tables stand and a dreamy-cool ice cream mural by local artist George Rose frames the kitchen. It’s a big space, made intimate by dark furnishings and walls, however the exterior wall of the bar is composed entirely of bi-fold doors, easily transporting the venue from cosy winter bolthole to breezy summer day-drinking destination come the warmer months. Outside there’s a veritable pile of pallets that have been assembled into a sprawling outdoor seating complex, perfect for large groups.

While the food and drink menus are still being tweaked ahead of The Well’s official opening on 3 August, the film-school-cool theme can be seen in their current menu, harmonious with the bar’s namesake – playwright Orson Welles – including cocktails such as ‘Charlie’s Angels’, ‘Drive’ and ‘Faulty Towers’.

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Being housed below a UniLodge student residence with 500 tenants at full capacity, students’ budgets seem to be in the forefront of the management’s mind where prices are concerned. Cocktails start at a meagre $3 (the ‘Rising Sun’) and end at $16 (the ‘Citizen Kane’), making The Well easily the most affordable spot to drink on campus, let alone Belconnen. As for food, their Hawt Dogs start at $7 for any of their four gourmet hot dogs, but if you’re willing to part with $5 more you can order the mini hot dog platter with baby versions of all four.

The Mini Hot Dog Platter

The Mini Hot Dog Platter

The dessert platter that I sampled was exceedingly generous for the $12 price tag and easily shareable with a warm chocolate brownie, nutella cheesecake and deconstructed banoffee pie.

The Dessert Tasting Plate at The Well

The Dessert Tasting Plate

Beyond the official opening on August 3 – which will feature a getaway car, roller derby waitresses and a variety of musical acts – The Well are set to create their own open-air cinema. “We’d love to have weekly outdoor cinema sessions in summer and then bring it inside for winter” says Pat. “[The Well] is here to be here for students, but to offer them something more. We’re looking at creating a whiskey club, getting more students involved. [Looking to make] alcohol not just the lubrication to a night but to offer a quality service, on campus.”

With no visible branding within the bar – aside from the omnipresent logo, of course – The Well seems to be the kind of place you could make your regular before knowing its name. Fingers crossed that this less-is-more approach will appeal to students and they’ll be tempted to do as the bar’s tagline suggests and ‘dive in’.

The author ate courtesy of The Well. 

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Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Editorial Coordinator involves eating, drinking and interviewing people - sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise you’ll find her at the movies, ordering a cheese board or ordering a cheese board at the movies. More about the Author

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