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New bar aims to be antidote to social media

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Glen Wilks (left) and Warren Reid-Rubaine of Bungalow 56 (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A new bar has opened on Reid Street.

Owners Glen Wilks and Warren Reid-Rubaine are hoping Bungalow 56 will prove the antidote to social media.

They designed the venue to bring people closer together; Mr Wilks describes it as a “cross-pollination project”.

The name, he feels, explains itself: “If someone has their million-dollar penthouse, their bungalow is their weekend retreat.

“Now they can have that escape in the city.”

Bungalow 56 covers a terraced space on Reid Street above the health store Down to Earth. Mr Wilks’s art hangs on the wall and the bar’s long communal tables have been built from repurposed climbing frames.

The lounge is arranged more like a living room than a bar. The music is pitched at a level where people can hear each other speak.

“People like the fact that even though it’s an open space, you have a lot of break-off zones where you can have private conversations,” said Mr Wilks, who also owns the Polished salons on Reid Street and in Washington Mall.

He described the space as multifunctional. It has accommodated birthday parties and film screenings since opening on April 1. Its main function is a platform for film, music and art.

“The idea is to socially engage people. It’s what we consider a cross-pollination project to get people from different cultures, backgrounds and disciplines to meet in one place; a point in which they can share insight, stories and have deep and meaningful interactions,” Mr Wilks said.

The lounge is open to the public. The idea is to eventually have a membership of “people for whom this is the right fit”.

Members will help decide how the space will be used. They’ll also have access to work stations and Wi-Fi, with the opportunity to use Bungalow 56 as a place for off-site meetings.

“If we can curate the experience, we can curate the people,” Mr Wilks said.

“To some degree the space reflects the person, but it still has to work commercially. The people who have engaged with the space have said they’ve found nothing like it on island, so for them it fills that gap, which is the point.

“A lot of places only engage on some level. We’re looking to become more of a lifestyle, to engage on many levels.

“One key feature here is, what might be a generic experience for one person, they can share it here with a bunch of people — whether it be watching a movie or drinking a bottle of wine.”

“Professional, thinkers, doers, makers, managers and entrepreneurs”, are among the bar’s clientele.

“Last week, I could easily say we had 20 different countries represented here in one evening,” Mr Wilks said.

“In this case it’s not just swapping cards. You can learn about each other or learn from each other.”

The venue has no kitchen of its own but will pull resources from neighbouring eateries.

Lunch and dinner are easily accommodated by creating a menu they can easily have prepared in kitchens close at hand.

“How people use the space will depend very much on what their specific interests are,” he said. “We’ve built into it the opportunity to engage with film, literature, art, cocktails and cigars, but, most importantly, engage with each other.”

At the last film screening, When Elephants Fight, they didn’t shift tables and chairs until five minutes before. Everyone had to join in the effort.

On another evening guests were invited to paint words along the walls of the lounge’s staircase.

“People get a kick out of doing graffiti. It brought out the artist in everyone,” Mr Wilks said.

“Culture meets commerce at this point. You can buy a drink anywhere, but the experience is more than just the business. The business becomes the whole sense of bringing people together in a way that enriches them individually and collectively — and hopefully profitably for us.

“You might think it idealistic, but business fundamentally is people.”

Bungalow 56 is open at 56 Reid Street Monday through Saturday, 12pm-11pm.

Glen Wilks (left), and Warren Reid-Rubaine of Bungalow 56 (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Bungalow 56. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Bungalow 56. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)