There's a bit of a pattern emerging in the entrepreneurial pursuits of Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham. After opening their wildly popular Mary's burger eatery in Sydney's inner west, the pair took over the Lansdowne Hotel in 2017, breathing new life (and pizza) into the heritage pub. Now, they're rattling the keys to the old Basement, the historic live music venue that shut its doors last year.
The new venture, called Mary's Underground, will slide into the two-level venue in May, and it looks like it'll be Mary's "casual" up top, and Mary's "fancy" below.
The upstairs level will be serving its signature burgers, trashcan bacon and fried chicken, with a few new vegan offerings. Expect more of the natural wines typically found on Mary's drinks list and at its sister bottle shop, P&V Liquor Merchants.
Down below, it's dinner and a show. The basement level will house a more intimate restaurant, with a Euro-American menu. "It'll be touches of luxury alongside some no-fuss, old-school, tasty-as-fuck cooking," says Smyth, promising that a "fancy" burger will be available exclusively at Mary's Underground.
While the Lansdowne typically rosters indie and rock-genre gigs, Mary's Underground will continue the Basement's blues-and-jazz legacy. In its heyday, musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Herbie Hancock graced its stage, while Prince once held a secret late-night gig there. At the reborn Basement, Smyth and Graham have plans to host experimental jazz, bluegrass, hip-hop and electro performers, seven nights a week.
Across the city, live music venues are major casualties of the state's lockout laws. Sure, Mary's may have turned the Lansdowne Hotel around, but its success could be down to the venue's proximity to universities, which provide a steady stream of music-curious punters. Will a second live music venue, right in the heart of the CBD, experience a similar revival?
"Let's not mince words – the lockout laws are fucked," says Smyth. "But if we choose to allow them to continue to define our city's culture, then we are equally to blame as the single-serve politicians that enacted them."
"We are opening a live music venue in Sydney 2019 because we love fun, and this is going to be fun as fuck."
Mary's Underground is slated to open in May at 7 Macquarie Place, Sydney.