New owners of an Albury CBD wine bar and restaurant were only open for four weeks before COVID-19 shut them down. Now in the first few uncertain weeks of re-opening, patrons are rediscovering Level One Wine Bar.
Mick Randall caught up with co-owner Mark Davis.
What attracted you and your co-owner wife Debbie to initially open up Level One Wine Bar earlier this year?
We have a lot of friends here in Rutherglen and Albury and we came up to see close friends in December and he suggested a business that would be perfect for us.
I’ve been in the wine industry since the age of 21 and my wife Debbie used to own a 300 seat restaurant in Bendigo. We’ve had our own wine wholesale company in Melbourne since 2001. We came to this venue, saw the set-up, saw how amazing it was and fell in love with it.
This business was an opportunity to get out of Melbourne and start enjoying the lifestyle. We felt given the wine range we have learned over the years and Deb’s hospitality background, we could bring something special to Albury. This to us, was the perfect venue.
Have you made any changes?
We’ve done very little. It was already renovated. But we have set up a wall of wine – 300 different wines from all over the world, including our own shipment of French champagne. This champagne has never been in Australia before.
We also feature wines from the Barossa Valley, Margaret River, Tasmania, local wines – I’m a big fan of Cofield Wines – we’ve been Cofield’s distributor in Victoria for the past 16 years.
What style of cuisine is on the menu?
We feature modern Australian food and the menu will be continually changing. We keep looking for dishes and ingredients that are going to be special. We want patrons to come in and say ‘that’s fantastic, we have to have that again’.
Even something as basic as sausages, which we recently trialled for breakfast – a lamb and fetta sausage, which everyone was raving about how good they were. They are from a butcher that’s won the Best Sausage in Australia on about five occasions. We will keep trying to find the right signature dishes.
How has business been impacted during COVID-19?
We were only open for four weeks before COVID shut us down. A lot of the people who visited us in the first four weeks are the ones who came back in the first few days. Over the past few weeks others have discovered us and enjoyed what we’re providing. We were disappointed to have shut down, but since opening up it’s been fantastic.
What are your plans for the business over time?
The whole idea of this place is to educate people on various types of wines. We do wines by the glass and we keep changing them on a regular basis.
Once COVID breaks, every Friday night between 5pm and 7pm we’ll have five wines for tasting. There will be free tastings and I’ll tell them about the wines and offer the featured wines by the glass as a special for the night.