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Iconic Sydney Underground Music venue Qirkz finds a new home in the Hunter

Updated: Mar 20, 2023


Multi ARIA-award winning musician and hotelier Yarron Hallis

Abermain is quickly becoming the home of live music outside the Newcastle CBD, with new venue Qirkz in the Hunter already hosting acts like Katie Noonan and Kevin Borich.


Qirkz in the Hunter, previously known as the Hotel Denman, was established late last year by new owners Yaron Hallis and Edith Lowthe, and is without a doubt the quirkiest pub in the Hunter.


Walking in, it’s hard to know where to look first.


Every wall is adorned with contemporary art created by Indonesian surrealist artists Faizin and Pudjiami and numerous life-size models of Elvis, Marylin Monroe and other figures stand throughout the hotel.


But despite the unique and colourful décor, there is a serious strategy behind the pub’s revamp.


“I’ve been co-running a music venue in Sydney called Camelot Lounge for about 12 years, but previous to that there was an underground music venue called Qirkz which was where it all started,” hotelier Yaron Hallis said.


“It was basically an opportunity for me to invite people into my home, and share all my art and music with everyone.


“I never gave up on the dream of resurrecting Qirkz one day, but I never imagined it would be in the Hunter Valley until I saw this incredible 110-year-old historical pub and fell in love with it.”


“I never gave up on the dream of resurrecting Qirkz one day, but I never imagined it would be in the Hunter Valley until I saw this incredible 110-year-old historical pub and fell in love with it.”

Seeing the building’s potential, Hallis and his wife Edith (who was to become the licensee) purchased the pub and moved in upstairs to start creating the vision that would become Qirkz in the Hunter.


“This particular pub had so many things that appealed to me in terms of its layout including the area up front which we’ve turned into a café,” Hallis said.


“But most critically, it had the big area out the back that we’ve been able to turn into a space for live music - and that’s what motivates me most. To present opportunities for music and bands, because I noticed there was no dedicated music space in this neck of the woods.


“I also really want to give bands an opportunity to play in a dedicated music venue in this area where they are the main focus and not playing behind a wall of sports screens or competing with other entertainment options.”


With relationships build over many years at Camelot Lounge, and being an multi-ARIA award-winning musician himself, Hallis plans to bring a mix of artists, as eclectic as the décor of the pub, to play in the dedicated music space he has created at the back of the venue.


“There’s so many acts that I’m inspired to bring to this area,” he said.


“I’m also in the process of tapping into the amazing pool of talent that we already have in this area which - being from Sydney - I was largely unfamiliar with”.


The venue will host a diverse range of musical genres from blues, to country, funk, soul, jazz, rock and roll and everything in-between. According to Hallis, all that matters is that it’s good.


“The common denominator here is quality,” he said.


“We want excellent artists whether they play original music or cover tribute style songs, it doesn’t matter. It’s just finding a balance that works for everyone.”


However, while Hallis’ plan is galant, persuading the local community to attend ticketed shows and drawing an audience up from Newcastle is inevitably a challenge.


“This has long been a local pub and the expectation is free music on the weekend,” he said.


“I understand that, but what I really want to offer this area are quality touring bands they don’t usually get to see without having to travel. Likewise, I think once people from further afield do make the trip up they’ll see what a great venue it is and look forward to seeing more acts here.”


“I understand that, but what I really want to offer this area are quality touring bands they don’t usually get to see without having to travel. Likewise, I think once people from further afield do make the trip up they’ll see what a great venue it is and look forward to seeing more acts here.”

What the local community is already loving however, is the new look and feel of the venue.


“The aesthetics are unusual even for a city venue and I was worried people would come in here and say, ‘what the hell have you done to our pub’,” Hallis said.


“But the feedback has been amazing. This is a regional, local pub that you usually wouldn’t want to mess with too much, but while we’ve added all this colour and flavour, we’ve been very much inspired to focus on the existing features of the building such as the beautiful old ceilings and floorboards.”


Locals are also enjoying a range of workshops and night markets held regularly at the pub ranging from burlesque dance classes to salsa classes and local craft.


“One night a month we have night markets here and we’re focusing on adding additional art-inspired classes and workshops whether that’s dance, music or other art forms,” Hallis said.


“What we want is to create an oasis for everything relating to music, dance, and art.”


The pub also has an adjoining café with its own street entrance open seven days per week and serving local produce and delicious food and drinks.





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