Newtown’s King Street is a busy and sociable stretch of road, even late at night. People wander in and out of restaurants and pubs, on their way to meet friends, catch a movie or find a good place for dinner. When the wine bar Argie Bargee opened early in 2013, it soon became a natural stopping point for a night out in Newtown. “I wanted a place where people could sit down and relax,” says owner Roberto Clavero.
Argentina-born Roberto expected the international range of wines and beers to be the chief attraction at Argie Bargee, but to his surprise, the menu of light Argentinean-style meals is becoming increasingly popular. “I didn’t focus on the food,” Roberto says. “I provide wines from Argentina and all over Australia. We open at 6pm, so I expected people would come in for a drink before going out to dinner. But it also happens that people come in and they stay for the food.”
One of the appealing aspects of a tapas menu is that the tiny servings are surprisingly filling. “It’s a good menu for groups,” says Roberto. “They come in together and try a lot of dishes between them.’ Not everybody realizes how filling tapas can be. “One guy came here with his girlfriend,” Roberto recalls. “It was her choice to have dinner here, and he was not impressed that the portions were so small. Later he was stuffed, so they ended up taking one plate home.”
Roberto has bigger plans for Argie Bargee than just a wine bar. With background experience as an events manager, he is working to promote Argie Bargee as a popular and practical venue for birthday parties, live music performances and other events. The recent soccer match between Argentina and Columbia was celebrated in style, and every second Tuesday, Argie Bargee hosts a fashion parade, featuring local designers. Tickets are $5 and include a pasta meal as well as the fashion show. In June, Argie Bargee also hosted a ladies night, with male strippers to entertain the crowd.
Roberto concedes that the first year of business has been more challenging than he anticipated. “We opened late in summer and I didn’t have time to build up my clientele before the weather grew colder,” he says. In an area where people stroll around to find an amenable venue, the miserable weather has cut down on potential customers. “I am very lucky to have an arrangement with Silver Chef,” Roberto says. “I have hired all the basic equipment – my fridges, the dishwasher and ice-maker – so this has freed up my capital while I build my business.”
He is also building a community, encouraging customers to follow Argie Bargee on Facebook and Twitter. HAnd he is also making friends with his neighbours on King Street. “There’s a pizza shop next door, and they help me out by sending their customers here for a drink while they wait for their pizza!”