As the sole owner and operator of two venues, Emily Jane has plenty on her plate. Between booking bands and ordering stock at her Woolloongabba bar Can You Keep A Secret, Emily has spent the better part of five months orchestrating the revitalisation of the stately 130-year-old heritage-listed Coronation Hotel building on the corner of Montague Road and Hope Street (affectionately dubbed Francis Stanley in honour of the architect responsible for its design). The site, likely known to many as The Milk Factory, will be reintroduced to the public this weekend as It’s Still A Secret – one part live-music venue, one part bar and kitchen, and one part throwback hideaway. While Emily would be the first one to admit that the juggling act has had a few overwhelming patches (anyone that has had to renovate an entire home can sympathise), the protean publican has relished the opportunity to replicate her brand of inclusive hospitality and bolster the ranks of band rooms in Brisbane.
When we visit It’s Still A Secret days before its official opening, it’s a far cry from the dusty shell Emily took on when she became the new custodian of the heritage-listed South Brisbane venue back in July. In the months between receiving the keys and pouring the first drink, Emily has stripped back the interior (exposing much of the building’s original brick walls) and given it a new visual identity. As anyone that frequents the vintage treasure trove turned boutique nightspot Can You Keep A Secret can attest, Emily has an eye for decor. At It’s Still A Secret the operator has outdone herself once again, applying a sense of nostalgia-inducing and homely flamboyance across various nooks and corners. An assemblage of quirky curious, eye-catching artworks and vintage furniture comprise the venue’s eclectic-yet-lived in aesthetic, from the patterned couches and wallpaper to the macrame hangings and timber panelling. The street-facing band room shares this lived-in vibe, but care has been taken to ensure the musical experience is top notch – a new sound desk and stage blends in seamlessly with the repurposed pieces that fill the space. It’s Still A Secret’s beer garden (now dog-friendly) has also received a sprucing, with a colourful 1960s garden feel offering a tranquil respite for those seeking some fresh air. More decorative touches, including extra wallpaper and planter boxes, will be added to the space over the coming months, while footpath dining along the Montague Road side is expected to be approved shortly.
Compared to It’s Still A Secret’s multifarious interior, Emily is ensuring the venue’s bar and kitchen offering is simple, yet of high quality. Kitchen renovations continue, so Emily is recruiting local food trucks and restaurant pals to keep crowds fed over the opening weekend. Once complete, expect a range of small and sharable bites, potentially drawing upon the venue’s 1970s aesthetic as a key influence. As for the drinks, Emily is placing a strong emphasis on non-alcoholic options for the temperance crowd, with booze-free sips available alongside stiffer stuff like cocktails (crafted using elevated first-pour spirits), craft beers (ales from Aether Brewing are available on tap) and vino that you won’t readily find at your local bottle shop. When it comes to the music, Emily’s booking style follows a genre-less curatorial ethos focused around giving love to original acts and vinyl DJs, with some form of entertainment planned for every night of operation. Tickets for the opening weekend’s gigs are becoming hard to come by, with funk outfit Golden Sound taking the stage on Friday (with food trucks providing the eats), Endless Valley, Demi Casha and Homewood Sapiens performing on Saturday (Stone & Brew will be slinging pizzas), and Life on Earth will play alongside the vinyl-spinning Echo & Bounce DJs for the Sunday recovery party (yes, there will be bloody Mary’s).
It’s Still A Secret will open on Friday November 5 – click over to the Stumble Guide for extra details.