Industry legend, one of the true founding fathers of the Australian cocktail, Vernon Chalker has passed away. The Visionary Melbourne bar owner, Vernon Chalker died at just 55 years old . Vernon Chalker cause of death is not yet known as at the tie of filling in this report.
Vernon Chalker founded Melbourne’s legendary Gin Palace, a lane-way institution, the venue heralded a boom of cocktail bars in the 1990’s and transformed the city’s nightlife scene.
Gin Palace was one of Impos’ first venues back in the day and later came Bar Ampere, another roaring success in Melbourne’s CBD.
Vernon Chalker grew up in Nathalia in northern Victoria. He moved to Melbourne in 1982 at the age of 18 and entered the hospitality industry, as a banquet waiter at what was then called The Wentworth Melbourne Hotel, on Collins Street.
Chalker started a catering company in 1991 that operated the cafe at the Malthouse Theatre in Southbank, before opening Gin Palace in 1997 with then business partners Daniel Besen, Robert Lehrer, and Michael Kantor. Gin Palace realised their vision of a cocktail lounge “with full service and no attitude” and in the process created one of Melbourne’s first laneway bars.
“When the liquor licence laws changed during that decade the opportunity arose to open a business where the focus could be solely on drinks without food,” Chalker told us in 2010. “My idea was to provide service like a restaurant, rather than expecting guests to go to the bar and order drinks. Of course I wanted it to be sexy and luxurious too.”
He went on to open Madame Brussels in the mid 2000s on a rooftop in Bourke Street, as well as Collins Quarter in 2007, and the futurist-inspired Bar Ampère next door to Gin Palace in 2011.