Welcome to Cartel Bar, the least Caxton St place on Caxton St. "I think it still says that on our Facebook page," so Noah tells me, though he admits " We could probably change that now because Caxton St is definitely changing." But there's a certain irony that exists in the initial statement when you consider Cartel is, in many ways, quite literally part of the fabric of the street. Having no walls, no doors, no definitive separation between bar and road, Cartel is possibly one of the most unique drinking establishments in the city, and according to Noah, "it's the only bar in Brisbane you can walk in, literally off the sidewalk, and get a beer within a metre and a half." Conjuring the feel of a traditional American-style dive-bar, developed by proprietors, bartenders and best mates, Noah and Flynn, Cartel is that rare place you can sit up at the bar, order a drink from and have a yarn to, the guy who owns and runs the joint.
So what's a dive bar? Picture Cheers, with Ted Danson and Woody Harrelson, only in this picture Ted has the beard of a bushranger and Woody sports a moustache. No, in Noah and Flynn's version of this American comedy classic, they've replaced an ocean of mahogany with vintage lounges plucked from assorted Brisbane op shops, and fashioned a bunch of miniature stools from that ever-trusty building block, the humble milk create. And instead of Ted and Woody's bowling trophies - that classic stuffed and wall-mounted Trout fish, they've littered the joint with Star Wars paraphernalia and placed an Xbox in the corner, because a shift for the boys is usually anywhere between 12 to 14 hours and as Noah puts it, "when you're here that much, you need to make it comfortable." The self professed 'gamers,' and 'scifi nerds' of Paddington came up with the idea, they say, "to make it a place we wanted to hang out at," and in their pursuit to recreate the great American dive bar, quite literally as much as you can do without walls, they've done it.
Seated at the bar, having a drink and chatting to Noah, he talks about Cartel's layout and how the entire venue is designed to encourage people to talk, "that's why we designed it as low as it is outside. You've only got the two high tables and the dry-bar, I want everybody to be sitting down - in groups! And that's why we have the seats at the bar as well, so if you're by yourself you come chat to the bartender." Dedicated, not to simply move with developing tastes and trends but to impress upon their customers a certain value in these emerging changes, the boys rotate their beer taps every couple of weeks, "so it's never the same thing two weeks in a row!" They offer a wide variety of craft beers, both on tap and from the bottle, and Noah tells me, Flynn is behind every drink selection in the bar. But more than its assorted selection of frothy beverages is the leisurely feel of Cartel - beer-soaked into the very fabric of the venue - which gives it that humble, chilled vibe I'm so often looking for in a place to relax and drink.