Sifters Brings Laneway Culture to Regional Australia

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When young sister-brother team Ane and Niels Glahn-Bertelsen first dreamed of introducing a taste of Melbourne’s laneway bar culture to their new hometown, Wollongong, their budget didn’t match their ambitions. 

But rather than abandon the dream, the starry-eyed entrepreneurs scaled down their vision and built with recycled shipping containers – and Wollongong’s hottest new hangout was born.

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Together with business partner Alex Hooke, the pair transformed a vacant car park at the back of a dingy Wollongong alley into a bustling outdoor drinking hole that is now known as Sifters.

Two refurbished containers were lifted into the car park behind a vacant Market Street office to form a bar and toilet block.

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Ms Glahn-Bertelsen told local paper Illawarra Mercury that the Market Street car park location, behind the Hotel Illawarra, was ideal because it was sheltered and removed from residential buildings.

“Shipping containers come fully compliant, they’re ours to own and they’re an asset that you can pick up and move wherever you want – so we just needed a car park to put them on,” she said.

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Designed by architectural firm Edmiston Jones (AEJ), Sifters is an open-air bar serviced by a fully commercial kitchen and amenities, built within repurposed shipping containers.

The ‘high bay’ containers are 2.9m high and are complete with modified access doors and operable awnings providing ventilation and cover to the service counters.

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The use of retrofitted shipping containers for the relaxed open-air venue reflects the architects’ commitment to sustainability through recycling and innovation.

AEJ Director Mark Jones says, “The Sifters group are at one with this ethos, creating the outdoor furniture and landscaping with recycled and found materials.”

“The kitchen equipment and fixtures have been sourced from factory seconds and eBay.”