LIFE

These Sydney Bar Owners And Restauranteurs Are Becoming Agents Of Change

They are much more than food and booze.

11/11/2016 12:25 AM AEDT | Updated 12/11/2016 11:19 AM AEDT
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A bunch of proud locals who happen to be good at making food.

It's a big weekend for the Newtown community -- an eclectic and engaged suburb in Sydney's inner-west.

The 38th annual Newtown Festival is back.

And for a group of the suburb's burgeoning boozers and foodies, this is a chance to give back to those that line up -- and live -- outside their back street restaurants and bars, day in, day out.

If you're given a voice, you need to use it.

They are called the Newtown Locals, and Jake Smyth, owner of burger eatery 'Mary's', started it all.

"It began as a conversation between myself and Kenny, my business partner. We wanted to see a greater representation of Newtown at the festival as a first step," Smyth told The Huffington Post Australia.

"The idea of having our team just turn up at the festival didn't feel right. Our next step was to look back to the community and raise some important money. How would we do that? Let's get a bunch of our mates who are bar owners, restauranteurs and cafe owners to come together."

That first meeting was two years ago. Now, approaching their third festival, there are 16 parts to the collective -- from 'Mary's' to cheese boutique 'The Stinking Bishops' and espresso bar '212 BLU '-- who are coming together this year to dish up a spread of simple festival eats and drinks.

Every cent raised goes towards homelessness, domestic violence and drug and alcohol services provided by the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre.

Do we have a problem with homelessness? Yes, we absolutely do.

"At its core is a strong desire to help the community in a positive way -- that's what brings us together," Smyth said.

"The Neighbourhood Centre does a huge amount of work and that isn't often spoken about -- especially within our tiny hospitality community. I think it's really important that people think about issues such as homelessness with respect to their own local community.

"Do we have a problem with homelessness? Yes, we absolutely do."

For its members, Newtown Locals is about so much more than bringing in burgers and beers.

"This costs us time, money and energy. It wouldn't be anything if it was just about bringing a bit of awareness to our restaurants," Smyth said.

And it reflects an interesting evolution in the role of hospitality makers who are gaining traction behind musicians and artists.

It has fallen on us for some reason, and it would be so much more than a missed opportunity to not do something with that.

"Over the last few years, we have been afforded a certain (and I believe, slightly misplaced) position bearing some sort of influence over our culture," Smyth said. He calls it a "lapse in social responsibility".

"I think if you are given a voice, you need to use that voice to affect positive change -- not to talk about confit chicken (that's what we do professionally!) but to be engaged with the things that really matter. And that is community, family and social welfare."

Smyth takes this role quite personally. "It has fallen on us for some reason, and it would be so much more than a missed opportunity to not do something with that."

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Mmmmm.

Oh and yes, how could we forget? THE FOOD.

Festival-goers this Sunday can look forward to a spread of hold-in-your-hand eats -- from 'Bloodwood's' fried club sandwiches (with bacon, cheese, smoked pineapple jam and pickles) to 'Black Star's' signature raspberry lychee smash cake.

"This year, we've gone for things that will raise as much money as possible," Smyth said.

"This isn't a platform to show off how good we are as cooks... this is a platform to be effective fundraisers -- and have a good old time as we do it!"

The annual Newtown Festival will be held on Sunday November 13 at Camperdown Memorial Park in Sydney. All funds raised will go towards assisting Newtown Neighbourhood Centre to support people at risk of homelessness in Sydney's inner-west.

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