If you look carefully around Mr West, you might be able to spot a couple of fun ‘Easter Eggs’ referencing the site’s history.
“This place was originally a textile manufacturer and retailer. So right at the back of the bar upstairs, you’ll find the pulley system that used to transport bolts of cloth downstairs to sell. Obviously, we’ve had to cover up the hole where the cloth drops from upstairs to downstairs, but not many people even notice the pulley above their heads,” smiles Josh Hodges, one of the co-owners of Mr West.
The Footscray bar offers other hidden delights. The mirrors, wood panel frames and bar shelves are from the textile manufacturer too. The incongruous ceramic tip jar of an Italian restaurant is a leftover from the $2 shop that last inhabited 106 Nicholson Street Mall, Footscray.
And if you’re wondering about the framed LA Lakers jersey at the entrance – yes, it is a real jersey autographed by Jerry West, an American basketballer that inspired the NBA’s logo.
“‘Mr West’ is a code name and in-joke too,” laughs Josh. “Caleb Baker and I were both working in sales for alcohol brands, and we had an itch to get back into hospitality and to start a bar and bottle shop together. But we couldn’t talk about our project openly while at other people’s bars and bottle shops, so we’d refer to the concept as a person called ‘Mr West’. It’s not even our first choice of name but we couldn’t agree and it’s the name that’s stuck!”
The pair decided to open their business in Footscray because of its proximity to the CBD and the incredible culture of the suburb. Back in 2017, there weren’t many venues like Mr West in the neighbourhood.
“We wanted to create a premium venue that served craft beer, wine, spirits and cocktails. That means that if you come with friends and someone wants to drink craft beer, and someone else wants to drink natural wines or independent spirits, we’ve got you covered,” says Josh.
Given the plethora of excellent restaurants in the vicinity, the deliberate choice was made not to offer food. That decision also inspired their friend Steve Kimonides to open Slice Shop across the mall. One night after a drink at Mr West, he craved a slice of pizza and couldn’t find it anywhere, so he opened his own slice shop.
Five years later, Mr West is firmly rooted in the hospitality scene in Melbourne’s West. Josh, Caleb and their team particularly enjoy collaborating with local businesses.
“We created the Crispy Wizard Lager with Footscray’s Hop Nation, made beers with T Cavallaro and Son’s cannoli (the shells went into the mash and they added lactose to emulate the custard filling) and brewed a French Farmhouse Beer inspired by the rustic menu at Small French Bar.
“Our most recent collaboration was with DK Asian Grocery, where we made a nitro stout inspired by Kinako Mochi balls with Kensington’s Bonehead Brewery.”
“We want to continue stocking independent brands and for Mr West to be a nice place to buy where you can find good booze from good people.”