Froth magazine chats with Hard Rubbish co-owner Charlotte Tizzard about scavenging chairs, cooking waffles and making Reservoir cool again.
Charlotte Tizzard, co-owner of Hard Rubbish bar, always had a dream to open her own bar. After a visit to Japan where she discovered the wonders of the “teensy-tiny izakayas” she said to herself: “‘Yes. That’s what I want. I want the smallest possible space I can find.’
“But it’s really hard to find teensy-tiny spaces in Melbourne, so I found the smallest I could – it’s like 50 square metres.”
The bar’s name – and the colourful décor – were inspired by its location and her own love of scavenging.
“It’s a really cheap way to furnish a place. My house is furnished from hard rubbish so I really know what I’m doing! And secondly, everyone has a good hard rubbish story. It’s such an ice-breaker. And I just thought it was a cool name as well, although it makes Googling things a little bit tricky, unless you put ‘bar’ at the end.”
While looking for furniture in the streets around Reservoir and Preston with her brother James, co-owner of the bar, Charlotte found that the northern suburbs were a treasure trove of unique pieces.
“Reservoir and Preston especially,” she enthuses. “There’s all these all nonnas who die, and their kids like modern stuff, so come hard rubbish day, there’s all these amazing things that are just left on the grass verges.
“We’ve gotten a bunch of our chairs out of hard rubbish – me and my brother will be driving along and we’ll see chairs and we’ll be sending each other text messages … and because we’ve both got little kids as well, we don’t have space to put it in the car, so it’s like, ‘Can you come and get it and I’ll mind the kids?’
“There’s this beautiful chair we’ve got, it’s covered in red velveteen and we found it by the side of the road. And we had to do this full-on babysit tag-team to try to make sure nobody else took it.”
One of her favourite found items is telephone tables.
“I really love telephone tables. They’re obviously a thing of the past, because nobody has a phone in their house anymore, or even the space for a telephone table. We’ve got two telephone tables in the bar. They’re really cool – they’re good for outside. You can just have your ashtray and your pint and sit there … it’s the perfect size.”
She thinks that the urge to scavenge and reuse is “a really northside thing”. “I think it is much more exciting to find a thing than to go out and buy it. It’s totally thrilling.”
Charlotte opened Hard Rubbish with James six months ago, for the simple reason that they moved to Reservoir and found it to be lacking suitable bars.
“We’ve moved there, as most people do, from Thornbury, Northcote and it was super depressing. So I was like, ‘Come on, we should totally open a bar.’ And we scraped together a tiny budget and opened it.”
She says that their contrasting skills have made it easier to work together: “I do all the social media and events and he takes care of shit that breaks down,” she laughs.
“It’s been totally amazing because my brother is a machine mechanic and a welder so he just built everything in there. He built all the leaners, the bench seats, the entire kitchen area, the bar itself, just everything. So that was cool. I just draw pictures of things I want him to make, and make decisions about how things are going to look, and he doesn’t care at all – he’s not a very aesthetic person I guess, he likes building things and making sure things work, so we just work together really well in that way.”
The sibling operation is not always a case of perfect harmony, Charlotte admits. “I remember having this big row with him about our flower budget, because I really like to have fresh flowers on the bar. I’m like ‘I want to spend $20 a week on flowers’, and he’s like, ‘$20 a week? Do you have any idea how much that adds up to in the course of a year?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh my god, we so need flowers.’ And we had this massive argument about it, and it took two days to resolve. It was ridiculous. And now I just sneak out and buy the flowers!”
Charlotte says she loves deciding which beers to have on tap, and that her brother, who is also a home brewer, is “massively into craft beer”.
“Every week or every fortnight we’ll run out of [a keg], and it’s like ‘What are we going to replace it with?’ And we get to have these big conversations about what we’re going to have.
“We’ve got a really good bunch of locals, so whenever we get [beer] samples in, we give it to everyone to try.”
While their current cooling system only fits smaller kegs, Charlotte is hoping to sort out their set-up by summer so they can buy all sizes of kegs.
“We’re [also] hoping to have cider on tap because cider just flies out the door. Even all through winter we’ve just gone through so much cider.”
As well as serving up toasted jaffles in the evenings, Hard Rubbish turns into a café on Sunday mornings (she is currently seeking to change their liquor licence so they can also serve mimosas and Bloody Marys).
The breakfast chef is actually one of their customers who has a flair for cooking. “One of our regulars, he’d bring in this stuff that he’d cooked, and we were like, ‘Dude, this is amazing, your food is so great’.”
“We do American-style waffles, because we’ve got the jaffle iron already, so we can just switch the plates over to a waffle iron. So he just designed a really simple menu around waffles, so like fried chicken waffles, pulled pork waffles, avocado smash waffles and apple pie waffles. They’re really, really delicious. He’s opening a diner across the road from us now!”
Six months since opening, Charlotte says she loves it, despite the steep learning curve.
“I’m still completely trying to figure out how to do this stuff. I’ve worked in pubs a long time ago but it’s really been learning along the way.”
One of her favourite jobs is planning events to have at the bar. Hard Rubbish holds trivia nights every Thursday, and Bring Your Own Vinyl nights about once a month, where punters can bring along their own records and give them a spin.
Charlotte realised that “people need events to get them out of the house – especially in winter”. “In Melbourne people just go into hibernation for three and a half months. And that was right when we first opened, so we had a few cracking weeks, and then winter descended and we were like ‘Oh my god! Where is everyone!’
“As usual, I was like ‘Friends! What do you think we should do? And they were like, ‘Dude! Put on trivia!’”
Hard Rubbish hosts trivia on Thursdays from 7.30pm. This Sunday October 9, Hard Rubbish is holding a BYO Vinyl night featuring all-female artists and beer brewed by female brewers, including Two Birds, Himmel Hund and Kettle Green.
Hard Rubbish Bar is at 670 Plenty Rd, Preston, near the 86 tram stop.
By Emily Day