Kieran Yewdall puts his pants on one leg at a time, same as the rest of us. Except once his pants are on, he’s a Time Out 'Publican of the Year' award winner, something he shares with business partner Michael Shaughnessy. The award, that is, not the pants. Together they are The Catfish, a Fitzroy local built on the solid foundations of good booze and music.
We spoke to Kieran, then like a dirty cop playing one suspect off against another, we fed Kieran’s answers back to Mike. Turns out, they've got their stories straight. As Mike puts it, “He pretty much nailed it. He’s like my second wife, we know each other very well, but I did add a few extra bits in.” Cheers fellas.
Young Henrys: Tell us a little bit about how the Catfish came to be?
Kieran Yewdall: Myself and my business partner Michael, we’ve known each other for years, we used to work together back in ’99/2000, back at a five star hotel. We always talked about opening a bar and the opportunity came around, we found this place in Fitzroy and got back in to it. Michael had been out of hospitality for awhile, he realised that that’s actually what he preferred and so we got back in to it and it’s been fun. So we’re three years old now.
YH: And did you just go about creating your ideal local?
KY: Yeah pretty much. We’re big fans of beer and the basic bar motto is ‘good booze without pretension’. So we just wanna serve good beers, we’ve got a limited wine list but it’s pretty good - you know five reds, five whites, one bubbly, one rose. But we want nice decent quality booze, we don’t want to rip people off. A good little local, live music, ever-changing tap list, the kind of place where we’d like to drink.
And because we’re in that area - we’re kind of tucked away in that bottom bit of Fitzroy there close to the city, away from the main strip. We back on to a hospital so we make sure we’ve got a late night kitchen, and we make sure the bar’s open so all the hospital staff can drink there and there’s heaps of residents around the area. Fitzroy’s full of bars, but there’s not a lot of little locals tucked away.
YH: And you've both been Time Out’s Publicans of the Year for the last couple of years. What does it take to be Publican of the Year?
KY: Well I have absolutely no idea. I think the judges have been drunk. Maybe we just got ‘em drunk, I don’t know. No I just think…Everybody’s welcome until you’re a dickhead, is our basic policy. I don’t know if we should print that or not. We don’t care who you are, what you do, as long you’re a nice person, come down, have a laugh, have a few drinks. We work in hospitality, so we just wanna be hospitable.
YH: What’s the best story that you’ve heard from a bar fly or witnessed from behind the bar?
KY: That’s a can of worms that one! I think anyone who works in this industry, late night at knock-offs, has had one or two little one-up stories of things you’ve heard or seen behind the bar. Let’s put it this way, what happens at The Catfish stays at The Catfish.
YH: I’m sure the punters would be very happy to hear that!
KY: As long as people own up to their mistakes, they’re always welcome.
YH: Have you got a favourite bar from pop culture?
KY: Oh that’s a good question….and I’m not really bloody sure actually. Not really, I mean, you just want to drink in that place where everyone drinks. We’re a bit of a no pretension bar. You know, come in and there’s music playing. The idea behind the bar is one of those American kinda - good beers and good live music. Not so much dirty stick to the floor, dive bar but just a happy environment to drink in.
Michael Shaughnessy: If you haven't seen "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" then go out and see it. The idea of a group of mates opening a bar and how it changes their lives and what events happen along the way can kind of sum us up. And we always have a laugh along the way.
YH: What’s your go-to album to kick off the vibe for the night?
KY: Not so much a go-to album but an album that I just literally bought which I’m blown away with is AC/DC’s High Voltage, the very first printing, the 1975 AC/DC High Voltage, the one they released before TNT. It’s outstanding and rare as hen’s teeth and I’m going to put that on right now.
MS: I have to back Kieran up on this one, anyone that knows me knows I’m a die hard Acca Dacca fan.
YH: Is there an album that’s the go-to for closing up shop at the end of the night?
KY: Personally, I always like to close with Rainbow Connection by Kermit the Frog. That’s my end of the night song. So whenever your hear that, it’s last drinks then you’ve gotta go. I prefer people to walk out the door with a smile on their face.
YH: And if you weren’t running a pub, what would you be doing?
KY: No idea. Work in a library? Work in a museum! I’ve always wanted to work in a museum, but I’d prefer to be working in a bar. If Mike wasn’t a publican he’d probably be a sports commentator, or professional asshole.
MS: What can i say!! Kieran knows me too well, nailed this one……I’m already good at one of them, you choose which one.
YH: What was the first gig you ever went to?
KY: Cliff Richards, at the Mackay Showgrounds, with my family. The first gig I ever paid for with my own money, that would be Rose Tattoo and the Angels, and that was the same week I went and saw Regurgitator. It was a good week.
MS: Metallica for me back in '97 I think, and my last was Black Sabbath. Do you see a trend happening here?? I don't know how Ozzy Osbourne does it, he can't walk, he can't talk but when he gets on stage he destroys it.
YH: And the last gig?
KY: I think the last gig I paid money to go and see was Bob Dylan. Oh no actually, the last band I paid money to see was a local Melbourne band called the Gun Barrel Straights and they are fantastic, I think they’ve got their second album out now and they are really good.
YH: And any legendary gigs at the Catfish that’d go in your personal hall of fame?
KY: Last Good Beer Week we did an amazing Blues Brothers tribute where we put chicken wire up in front of the stage and all the rest of it. It was absolutely packed, it was the opening gig for GBW. King Wolf gigs - every time they play we’ve got to get new foundations in the building because it’s nice and loud and rocking. And there was another gig by a gentleman by the name of Al James, who is an amazing Kiwi blues guitarist. And when he went home we had a bit of jam band. At one stage we had three guitars, a double bass, piano, drums, two or three trumpets, a trombone, the guys from the bloody Cat Empire, it was amazing. The who’s who of Melbourne jazz and blues musicians just took over the front bar for an ad lib gig, it was amazing.
YH: If it’s the end of the world as we know it, what’s your last round?
KY: Oh, it’d have to be a beer! I can’t, it’s like asking me to pick my favourite child! But I’ve gotta say - and I’m not just saying it to you - but that Young Henrys Dr Röt Fifer was absolutely one of the best beers of last year. I almost cried when a staff member dropped my last bottle.
MS: Haha he did cry...Very funny. But for me Rodenbach Caractère Rouge
…One of us has to be refined and classy and shit.
30 Gertrude St, Fitzroy VIC
Young Henrys Rock & Roll Trivia returns to The Catfish on Thursday 9th March.