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Bar 9 joins charity in new cafe venture

The Forager

Coffee entrepreneur Ian Callahan will this week open a new café run in conjunction with St Vincent de Paul on Whitmore Square.

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Bar 9 Outreach will operate as a genuine café with same look, feel and standard of food and coffee that is expected of Callahan’s Parkside and Adelaide Central Plaza cafes, but he says the Whitmore Square venue builds on Bar 9’s mission statement “Enabling life’s best work”.

It will provide a hospitality training program for homeless and unemployed people supported by St Vincent de Paul in Adelaide, while the rent Bar 9 pays for the space provides a revenue stream for the charity.

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The interior of Bar 9 Outreach still features the Corinthian columns leftover from its days as The Iliad restaurant.

Bar 9 Outreach is located in the vine-covered premises that was once the renowned Iliad Greek restaurant where some of Adelaide’s best chefs cut their teeth during the 1970s. The Iliad has been closed for around 30 years and the space has since been used as a dining room by St Vincent de Paul volunteers to prepare and serve meals to homeless people.

Callahan, who has previously worked with St Vincent de Paul providing coffee and breakfast for cold and hungry corporate types at CEO Sleepouts, says he was originally approached by St Vincent de Paul (SA) CEO David Wark about running a coffee training course at the site. That spurred further thought about what more he could do.

“My concern was that basic coffee training was not going to make a change for 400 to 500 people,” he explains. “So then we started talking about working with a shortlisted focus group of up to 12 people and taking more time to develop their confidence and skills to see what they can do and hopefully help them to get to the next level.

“We did discuss a profit-share arrangement [with St Vincent de Paul] but the stability of additional income coming through, irrespective of their operations, means they can allocate those funds towards other projects they are completing themselves.”

While the training side of the project may seem to have similarities with Jamie Oliver’s The Fifteen Apprentice Programme for disadvantaged youth, Callahan says that wasn’t where he found his inspiration.

“The Jamie Oliver thing has popped up, but I’m not a celebrity chef; for me, it’s about our mission as a business.

“When I started Bar 9 in 2009 my mission statement was ‘To increase the quality and awareness of specialty coffee in South Australia’.

“A couple of years ago we realised we had achieved that, and we did it well. Our new mission statement (‘Enabling life’s best work’) runs right through the business, from how we support our customers in the café and the office to our own staff – we want to help people to live their life’s best work.

“And hopefully, Bar 9 Outreach can ultimately employ some of the people it trains, help them find work or open up their own businesses.”

Callahan says Bar 9 Outreach should be fully operational within the next few weeks, offering Bar 9’s signature Five Senses coffee plus a breakfast and brunch menu including the popular Truffled Mushroom Ragout. He also plans to serve up some new Mediterranean flavours “as a salute to the restaurant’s Greek heritage” and expects customers will make use of the parkland opposite in Whitmore Square to sit and eat lunch.

“Bar 9 Outreach is not licensed; none of the Bar 9 cafes serve alcohol. And there will never be any alcohol on site because of our relationship with St Vincent de Paul.”

In the evenings, Bar 9 Outreach will close to the public as the restaurant will continue to serve meals to people needing the St Vincent de Paul service.

“The Bar 9 Outreach staff will help prep for those meals, which reduces St Vincent de Paul’s reliance on volunteer staff.

“Renovating the space is making it feel like a Bar 9 venue in terms of fit, feel and vibe, but we are not opening with a finished product – it will be a work-in-progress.

“We don’t want people to come to Bar 9 Outreach out of pity or some social element; we want people to support us because they see it as good value.

“I want to prove to myself and others that social enterprise can be good for business.”

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