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Local liquor legends forge ahead with bold growth plans


Darren Barber and his business partners are just getting warmed up.

Not in any kind of startup way by any means – their company is nearly five years old and their network of bars, a distillery and a brewery are firmly established locally and, increasingly, nationally.

Rather, Darren and his colleagues are constantly on the hunt for opportunities and expansion, from new products and venues to national expansion and more.

The pursuit of excellence and a bold entrepreneurial spirit drives their company forward. So, perhaps it’s no surprise to learn they’ve overhauled their company structure with a view to further growth.

Up until recently, the company’s behind-the-scenes operational name was Sarrant Group.

Now their growing empire is known as the Hospo Group, an umbrella brand for Three Wolves, Wolf Lane Distillery and Flamingos Tiki Bar, among other ventures.

Tropic Now sat down with Darren to find out more.



T: What sparked the launch of the Hospo Group?

D: The Hospo Group has always been there however with the launch of Wolf Lane Distillery we decided to separate all business into individual companies under The Hospo Group banner.

We have extended company shares to two of our key staff members – Andrew Pare and Benedikt Pape – to help grow and build the business.

With Wolf Lane Distillery growing at a rapid rate we will likely seek strategic partners or investment to scale the business considerably.

An equity crowd funding round is also not out of the question as we believe FNQ locals could play an integral part in growing the brand.

T: What does the new structure mean for Cairns and the local hospitality industry?

D: The Hospo Group will continue to build and develop our existing business and will remain on the lookout for new venues.

Our company’s core value is to continue to raise the standard of night culture and to activate forgotten spaces in Cairns. Not to mention creating more jobs and reinvesting in our local community.

T: What are some of the key lessons you've learnt in business over the past few years – both before COVID-19 and during the lockdowns.

D: Cairns is a tricky town to run a business at the best of times and hospitality is a volatile industry, so our journey hasn’t been an easy one.

The main lesson is to choose your staff carefully as they are the front and face of the business. They need to represent your brand and values.

We have a great team and company culture. We have also learnt to work alongside our competition and help one another rather than competing.

This in turn helps build the industry rather than one single business.

We respect and care for the local community and have built our businesses around this.

COVID-19 has further reinforced how important our local customer base is.

During the lockdown period we’ve had to pivot and develop parts of our business quicker than we thought was possible.

The distillery changed to produce hand sanitiser and the bars came together to develop an online bottled cocktail website.

It’s been a tough period, but it appears we will come out bigger and stronger.

T: What does the future hold for Hospo Group?

D: Wolf Lane Distillery is our main focus as we continue to grow across Australia.

We have joined forces with beverage distributors Swift + Moore & Bev Co to help distribute and market our gins and liqueurs across Australia.

We are also very excited for our newest venue, The Fox Small Bar, currently awaiting approval from Cairns Regional Council. The Fox will be a small neighbourhood wine and cocktail bar located in Stratford.


AWARD WINNER

A round of Wolf Lane Distillery’s recent accolades;

  • Australian Liqueur Distillery of the Year, New York International Spirits Awards
  • Silver Medal, New York International Spirits Awards – Navy Strength Gin
  • Gold Medal, Australian Gin Awards – Tropical Gin
  • World’s Best, The Gin Guide Awards – Navy Strength Gin
  • Silver Medal, London Spirits Awards – The Barista Coffee Liqueur
  • Silver Medal, London Spirts Awards – Navy Strength Gin
  • Bronze Medal, London Spirits Awards – Tropical Gin

WOLVES, REFRESHED

It was the small bar that started it all for the Hospo Group – and sparked a revolution in the Cairns bar scene along the way.

Now, Three Wolves enters a new phase after significant renovations during the coronavirus lockdown period.

Head down to the red brick laneway on Abbott St to discover the new additions including new booth seating, new back bar shelves, dimly light whisky cabinets, timber floors and an overhaul of the sound and acoustic system.

The best bit? The new back bar shelves have allowed the Three Wolves crew to stock over 300 whiskies along with an ever-growing selection of spirits.

“We are still operating at 50% capacity but the support of FNQ locals has been overwhelming,” Hospo Group’s Darren Barber told Tropic.

MORE: hospogroup.com.au

These stories originally appeared in Tropic Magazine Issue 26. Read the issue here