Return to Elegance at The Black Sparrow in Wellington’s Most Iconic Theatre.
Nestled beneath Mt Victoria, Wellington’s newest bar, The Black Sparrow, in the iconic Embassy Theatre opened with a lively party on Wednesday 25th July.
Like a scene from Boardwalk Empire, to the vibrant tunes of the Roseneath Centennial Ragtime Band, Broken Shed cocktails and a glamorous crowd of Wellington’s finest, the party went on til midnight.
Although it takes its name from an avant-garde 1960s publisher, the bar harks back to a time when black tie, silk dresses and the cocktail reigned supreme.
The bar itself occupies what was originally the orchestra pit of the Embassy Theatre, left derelict for more than sixty years and filled with the detritus from decades of cinema-goers . Now, where the music for silent movies once played, a central bar dispenses the libations of a bygone age.
That history is apparent in its heritage features; the original tiling is retained, art-deco-inspired carpet and furnishings, and a sumptuous marble-topped bar. Additional styling is provided by original glass bottles and other relics salvaged during the refurbishment.
The bar takes its name from Black Sparrow Press, a book publisher founded in 1966 by John Martin of Santa Rosa, California. Its oeuvre was the imperfections of life, in resisting the glamorisation of the corporation. Instead, founder John Martin choose to gamble on writers such as Charles Bukowski and Joyce Carole Oates. It was there that he found hidden potential.
It wouldn’t be art deco without a martini in hand, so a talented team of cocktail mixologists, led by Max Hart, contribute to The Black Sparrow’s unique style. Working in the shirtsleeves and braces of the bartenders of the era, they conjure up the classical styles of the golden age of cinema and the later avant-garde movement.
A jazz and ragtime band fills the bar with nostalgic tones and completes the journey back through time with live performances on Thursday to Sunday, most weeks.
The Black Sparrow will no doubt also benefit from being the stylish bar within the theatre that plays host to nearly all of Wellington’s magic cinema moments.
The Embassy is already earmarked for at least one international red carpet premiere this year, ensuring that the former orchestra pit stands to once again play an important role in the iconic building’s place in Wellington for years to come.