Some deaths are slow and painful; others bring a new beginning.
For Vince and Michael Russo, our longest running licensed nightclub bar and restaurant owners, closing The Avenue in Surfers Paradise came as a huge shock, soon replaced by the excitement and challenge of re-establishing the venue across the road in new premises with a new life more suited to the 21st century.
With the help of the guys from 40/40 Creative, their new $3 million venue is now up and running, a contemporary three-level space in The Mark Building that, like its predecessor, is known for its live entertainment, with the addition of great restaurant food.
There’s only one Avenue. It’s iconic; a place oozing stories most Baby Boomers don’t tell their teenage kids about!
Tracing their beginnings back to 1969, Vince Russo told the audience at The Avenue’s reopening how, in 1979, he bought into The Penthouse, Australia’s second nightclub.
The 1980s were the glory days of the venue, refurbished to become a party goer’s utopia offering themed entertainment across five levels including Mad Mary’s Meat Market, Bananas, The Garage, The Speakeasy, and The Avenue, which opened in 1984 on the ground floor as a restaurant and piano bar, the same year that Michael Russo joined as a partner. The brothers took full ownership of The Avenue in 1996.
The 1980s were different times: gentlemen were not allowed into the venue without a lady, and pyjama party congo lines weaved through the streets of Surfers. It was the home of The Girls’ Night Out (later to become Manpower) starring Jamie Durie (who began as a ‘glassie’) and Billy Cross, the Wine Waiters’ Race and even dwarf throwing!
Most of all though, The Avenue is remembered for its bands. Besides being a launching pad for countless local bands, the venue has hosted rock royalty such as U2’s Bono and his band, Peter Allen, and The Beatles’ George Harrison, as well as international celebrities, sporting legends and even prime ministers. Generations of musicians, celebrities and residents hold fond memories of great nights spent at The Avenue.
“Certainly, there is a sense of nostalgia as we look back over the years, as we have seen Surfers Paradise grow from a small coastal town into the bustling city and international entertainment destination it is today,” Vince said. “We definitely did not want the iconic Avenue name or history to end. The evolution of The Avenue across the road has given us the opportunity to plan for the future in a way we could never have done at our present location.”
Yet even this venue proved to be a massive challenge.
“You’re standing in the carpark…” Michael tells the throng on opening night, as a number of them reminisce about the ‘good old days’ of The Avenue.
It’s a chance to recreate those days that has the brothers excited; the chance to put The Avenue back on the map as a key influencer of local nightlife culture, offering customers a dramatically enhanced experience of live entertainment, while also introducing a rejuvenated focus on dining.
“Our father came from an island off Sicily where there was no running water. The family exchanged fish they’d caught for meat and cheese, and they would lay it out to share. For us, it’s about sharing our social fibre, sharing some food, breaking some bread and drinking some wine. That’s our culture,” Michael adds.
With coffee from 7am and lunch from noon, the new menu will surprise many. It’s upmarket food for a new age of dining: small and larger plates, charcuterie platters and pizza available until 2am, great for snacks and couples with a couple of upmarket burgers available at lunch to quell your hunger pains.
Plenty to offer in the drinks department too, with 15 beers on tap and a promising list of cocktails with interesting names. A Clockwork Orange, Cointreauseption or Mai Bow Tai might even draw the ladies away from the Salted Caramel Espresso Martini!
The new Avenue is a warm intimate space of wood, brick and tile with nostalgic feature elements. On the venue’s top level, leadlight windows and the grand piano remind us that the old Avenue is never far away, with ‘Chloe’ still lurking in a corner. The surrounds are certainly classier, but the mojo is the same: 114 decibels of great live music seven nights a week with classy food available from lunch until early morning.
“Having been here for 32 years, people have a perception of what The Avenue is, but the new Avenue is evolving into something different… a destination,” says Michael. “All ways and always, the social fibre of Surfers!”
The Mark Building, 3 – 15 Orchid Avenue, Surfers Paradise Ph: 07 5592 1678
Venue open: 7am – 5am daily; Coffee and take away breakfast from 7am; Lunch 12 noon – 2.30pm.
NOTE: Vintage photos courtesy of The Avenue.