Hospitality April 2019

Page 14


IT’S NO SECRET Kenny Graham and Jake Smyth founded their hospitality

group on ‘hatred’. The pair first bonded over a frustration with the industry,

but their decision to open six venues in

Sydney — a city that’s come under fire for its unsupportive policies — begs to be interrogated.

In the Smarter Living newsletter,

founding editor Tim Herrera wrote we

often see disgruntled people as “dementors who suck the joy out of the room”, before making the case it’s possible to take

dissatisfaction and use it to fuel creativity. If there are two people who are proof

that two negatives add up to a positive,

it’s Graham and Smyth, and Mary’s Group might just be the Patronus Sydney needs. Driven by antipathy, they made fun their cause. The result? A suite of venues that

reject the status quo while respecting the legacy of hospitality from bygone eras. Having met in Edinburgh, in Graham’s

native Scotland, the duo found themselves reunited in Australia — Graham in Melbourne, Smyth in Sydney.

“We started talking about what we

should do, which was built around a

mutual hatred of the hospitality industry and how f*cking boring it was,” says

Graham. With sneakers on the pavement

in both cities, Smyth and Graham had an

honest conversation about locations for a

potential venue. “At that point, Melbourne was saturated with really great bars and Sydney wasn’t,” says Smyth.

Instead, hotel bars reigned supreme

Mary’s Group Kenny Graham and Jake Smyth are the libertine duo turning their discontent into a legacy. WORDS Madeline Woolway

14 | Hospitality

across the city in the pre-Swillhouse age.

There was a gap in the market, which led to Graham and Smyth building a venue

that would become the namesake for their hospitality group. “We knew what we

wanted — something that wasn’t built on

pretense or theme,” says Smyth. “The best way to do that is to build an environment

you’re comfortable in.” And that’s why the

Mary’s Newtown venue has the vibe it does — unabashed, but laidback.

“It’s 100 per cent personal,” adds

Graham. “Chefs and restaurant owners aren’t always masters of environment, which is one of the major parts of

hospitality. Instead, they’re just like,

‘Let’s overcharge for fancy food’. These

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