Earl’s Juke Joint in Newtown is finally open.
There’s been drumroll anticipation for this new bar since last August, when Time Out Sydney reported that Pasan Wijesena (of Shady Pines) would kickstart his own establishment at the old Betta Meats location on King Street. I’ve been keeping an eye out for any microscopic change in its facade whenever I’ve walked past in the last year (especially as the bar was apparently meant to open in December); yesterday, a non-descript sign finally went up saying Earl’s Juke Joint would be ready on Tuesday. The entrance was even more low-key today, with nothing but the old Betta Meats logo to cryptically explain to people why this long unoccupied butcher was suddenly abuzz inside. (The front display’s promise of “continental smallgoods” and “top quality meats” probably didn’t dissolve the mystery either.)
So with no actual sign outside, gloomy Tuesday night rain to abet anyone’s preference for staying in, and only a few hours of open business so far – Earl’s Juke Joint was already jammed with people. Part credit goes to the reputation of Shady Pines and all its related ventures (Baxter Inn, Frankie’s Pizza); any bar with a link to that family of good-time establishments is a big drawcard, it’s seen as a shortcut to guaranteed fun. And Earl’s Juke Joint lives up to that – as the New Orleans flag near the bar hints, this place taps into the spirit of that lively city.
It also beats to the drum of Earl Palmer, the famous local that gave us the foundation stone of rock’n’roll. Framed music prints – such as posters of Fats Domino and T-Bone Walker – resonate across the walls, and the soundtrack runs on endless pick-me-up mode. You know discography is a big deal here when one of the advertised house rules is, “If Triumph by the Wu-Tang Clan plays, there will momentarily be no bar service. At least for the first verse anyway”.
To match this vibrant atmosphere is a list of fun drinks – including a rum-and-sugarcane cocktail dedicated to rapper Phife Dawg and a whiskey-spiked strawberry lemonade that is damn delicious – and complimentary serves of Bombay spice mix to keep your appetite in check. So, that front window signage is partly true: the meats are a long-gone fixture, but this place remains “top quality”.
Earl’s Juke Joint, 407 King Street, Newtown NSW