In 2014, Steve Doessel answered the phone to his then five-year-old son.
“Daddy, don’t you love me? You’re never home to tuck me in,” the little boy said. Those words projected Mr Doessel, then chief financial officer of a large fashion company, onto a new career path.
“It just broke my heart,” he said. “I saw this place for sale two days later on the Friday. And bought it sight unseen over the phone on the Monday.”
The place was Boogie Woogie Beach House in Old Bar, NSW, 315 kilometres north of Sydney. Now a music-themed hotel with seven guestrooms, and a restaurant, bar and live music venue downstairs called FLOW Bar, the establishment has a history steeped in music.
“We’ve got photos dating back to the 1920s of live music playing here,” Mr Doessel says. “We wanted to honour that.”
Each of the hotel’s seven rooms has a different theme. There’s a Ziggy Suite, with a mosaic portrait of David Bowie in the shower. The Blondie Family Room features another shower mosaic, along with an Instagram-ready gold bathtub. And the Mix Tape room features a cassette-print bedspread.
There’s a record-player in every room. Guests can grab vinyls from a stack on the wall in the hallway to take back to their room and play.
“You see them immediately start reminiscing,” Mr Doessel says. “Their faces just light up. You can see them remembering different parts of their youth or their early 20s or whatever it might be, and it’s taking them on a journey.”
In today’s fast-paced digital world, the hotel is a reminder that life can be as simple as in the days of listening to vinyl, he says. To make that more carefree lifestyle more accessible, rooms start at $200 a night: “So you wouldn’t have to save up forever,” Mr Doessel says.
On Fridays at 6.30pm and Sunday lunchtimes, FLOW holds free performances by local and travelling artists. Saturdays are typically reserved for ticketed gigs. Recent acts have included Tim Rogers, Tex Perkins and Diesel. An in-house sound operator and engineer provides guaranteed quality sound.
The Friday concerts are the most popular and draw up to 100 Old Bar locals and visitors from nearby Taree and Foster to fill the courtyard, watching the artist or band perform in a Bali-style hut.
Concert-goers will often dine at FLOW’s restaurant before or after a show. The menu is mainly Italian with an emphasis on made-from-scratch pizzas – as you’d expect from an executive chef, Dave Clifton, once part of Sydney’s well-known Hugo’s Group.
“He’s added a real food culture to the area as well – not just the business,” Mr Doessel says.
When you’re not eating, drinking or playing records in your room, Old Bar has plenty to explore. There’s a beach across the road and seven or eight good surf breaks nearby.
It’s also home to one of the largest river systems in the country, so allows for mud-crabbing, fishing and beach fishing. Mountain biking through the many national parks is also popular, as is riding makeshift sleds down snowfields and building snowmen in nearby Barrington Tops.
“You can be playing in the snow in the morning and be on the beach in the afternoon here,” Mr Doessel says. “It’s quite bizarre.”
But though Mr Doessel and staff can provide these recommendations, most of the time they encourage guests to relax.
“We once had a couple, CEOs of different companies, and their two daughters stay for two weeks,” he says.
“The first few days they were like, ‘Where can we can go? What can we do?’. They were a million miles an hour and I was like, ‘Guys, there’s not a lot to do here. It’s just about relaxing, going to the beach, leaving your phones in your rooms. Just take a step back from your life for a bit.
“By the time the second week came around, they were like, ‘This is the best place ever’, ‘This is the best holiday we’ve ever had, doing nothing’. It was great to watch.”
Boogie Woogie Beach House, 31 David Street, Old Bar, NSW (02 6557 4224). Rooms from $200 a night