A DRIVE TO GO ELSEWHERE
18 May 2015, Written by Laura Daquino
HOSPITALITY queen Simone Jenkins opened Elsewhere in 2003 with her husband Benny Roney hoping it would become a sanctuary on the streets of Surfers Paradise.
The venue is now the unshakeable gem on the strip, increasingly consolidating its position in the live music scene and still experiencing steady growth in revenue and staff.
Elsewhere has entered into iconic territory in an industry where the average lifespan of a business is five years, to now reach a stage where it's endorsed by regulatory authorities for safety.
Jenkins says there is less of a focus on turnover due to Elsewhere's limited capacity and premise of "comfort over profit", but in any case, the venue is still turning over six figures from a weekly patronage of 250 guests.
The beauty of Elsewhere rests in its versatility due to what Jenkins describes as a "classic retro style with a street edge". Elsewhere maintains a club-like ambience without the inescapable blaring music, and offers ample room to sit and talk as well as move and groove.
Club-like should be emphasised here, as Jenkins describes the venue as a "bespoke social club" rather than a "one of many" nightclub.
"Our music complements the space rather than dominating it," says Jenkins, adding that Elsewhere's music style ranges from chilled groove to acid house.
"Elsewhere is presented as a lavish, late night alternative conducive to intimate conversation and a haven from the chaos of Cavill Avenue.
"It was a big leap of faith to create a venture like this because we didn't feel like without any judgment that any existing venue on the Gold Coast had personality stamped on it."
For the Elsewhere team though, entrepreneurship is about imprinting personality onto business.
"We have a really clear understanding of our audience and cater to them through diverse offerings including electronica, live music, art displays and poetry reading, but also go one step further by thinking of ways to enrich their tastes," says Jenkins.
It's a point of difference Jenkins and Roney are focused on maintaining, experiencing firsthand the woes and woos of the Australian clubbing scene.
The couple are experts at the ABC's of venue etiquette arts, bars and clubs learning the ropes by racking up experience with some of the best in the industry.
Although Elsewhere's core team's industry experience is more than 100 years combined, Jenkins says launching the venture was similar to "spinning a spider web".
"We were the new kid on the block scrambling to make connections then you get a flow-on effect and it just starts to happen," she says.
She also says investing in a respected architect from the onset proved lucrative to mastering the ropes of licensed venue setup.
Jenkins, a lawyer by trade, has held venue managerial roles in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, while Roney worked as a venue host for a number of years in Melbourne before setting up onesixone in Chapel Street followed by Ninety Seven on St Kilda's Fitzroy Street.
Another critical component of the Elsewhere team is Simon "Stretch" Whicker, who is Elsewhere's marketing manager and more.
"I'm the actuator as Simone and Benny come to me with direct derivatives and I apply my take on these and make it work," says Stretch, who has been with the team for five years and regards his role as entrepreneurial in nature.
It would be fair to say that together they are decked out in the skills, knowledge and experience required to raise the profile and reputation of a location.
Roney says the surrounding area of Ninety Seven was regarded as "nasty and lowbrow" at the time but this was part of its appeal in his eyes. The venue acted as a catalyst for change in the area, going on to be commended by The Age for its contribution to hospitality.
Jenkins and her team have given ample flair to the east coast already, but now have something up their sleeves that will leave a lasting legacy.
"We have launched Nautic Giants, an events business starting with 500-person parties out on the Broadwater," says Stretch.
"The parties began in December last year and have really taken off we are now coming up to our eighth event.
"We can't just go from a boutique club to a large-scale festival, so this is the next step in making our dreams a reality."