Owners of Brunswick Sports Club discuss how functionality inspired the design

Following the launch of their first licensed venue in Dubai, Tom Arnel and Sergio Lopez discuss how functionality and the surroundings have inspired the pared-back design of their new sports bar.

Brunswick Sports Club is the latest opening by Bull & Roo Hospitality and Investments duo Tom Arnel and Sergio Lopez. Launched earlier this year in March 2016 at the Sheraton Hotel Mall of the Emirates, Brunswick Sports Club is also Arnel and Lopez’s first licensed venue.

The concept behind the 124-seat Brunswick Sports Club, Arnel and Lopez told Hotelier Middle East, is a laid-back, casual sports bar, where all feel comfortable, whether they are wearing shorts or a business suit.

“We both set out to create a licensed venue, where we would both like to go,” Arnel begins. “We are not really nightclub people. We don’t like to go to places that are too dark and dingy. We wanted to create a place that was inviting, casual, cool, light, airy, homey, laid-back. Somewhere we’d go to and fit in that isn’t pretentious or glamorous.”

Across their concepts, Arnel adds, the Bull & Roo design philosophy is “no gimmicks, nothing forced, and taking inspiration from the surroundings”.

The bar’s name comes from the Brunswick district in Melbourne, known for its independent retail and F&B venues. The Melbourne spot was also Arnel and Lopez’s initial inspiration for the concept and design.

“Brunswick”, Arnel tells us, “really epitomises the arty, foodie lifestyle culture. There’s not a franchise in sight.”

The design brief for Brunswick Sports Club fell to Melbourne-based design team The Residency Studios. “We looked for the best design team around Australia,” says Arnel. “These guys helped us come up with a concept, styled around an old-school Melbourne boxing gym.”

According to Lopez, the decision to employ an agency outside of Dubai was driven by the desire for “a different eye and a different perspective”. Inspiration also came from Brooklyn in New York.

Once The Residency Studios had created an initial concept and design, Arnel and Lopez employed locally-based designer Julian Floyd, founder and creative director of Yamjam Studio.

Talking to Commercial Interior Design magazine, Floyd said his aim was to create “a very effortless stripped, raw, urban interior that not only complimented the sports bar offer but continued Bull & Roo’s hipster style and brand. The key elements of the space were led by working with the existing potential of the site”.

“Yamjam’s influence behind Brunswick Sports Club was heavily inspired around Brunswick’s pubs, combined with an underground NYC boxing gym, to add a real point of difference,” explains Floyd.
According to him, the key elements of the space were led by working with the existing site.

“This was achieved through utilising the little natural daylight in the space where we were able to form the courtyard area creating a fresh indoor/outdoor vibe,” he says. “The bar area being tucked away created a moodier feel – framed by all the craft bottle/draft beer fridge displays. This made the area a more masculine area to watch sport.”

Floyd’s favourite design feature is the large backdrop wall of bottle fridges and the keg room.

“This showcases the array of guest beers that Brunswick has on offer, but also displays all the exposed mechanics from the keg room to the draught beers giving it that very masculine industrial touch,” adds Floyd.

Commenting on the design concept, Arnel confirms they wanted a bar that is “quite raw and quite industrial.”

He says: “We wanted it to look like it had legs for a long time so that it would age well. We achieved that by not doing too much. It is not like we have got velvet and leather in here, which can age.”

“That’s why we just painted the walls white,” Lopez agrees. “We always like to keep the beauty of the building. This is why most of our concepts are open ceilings and concrete.”

The space at Brunswick Sports Club, which was converted from the hotel’s staff canteen and laundry area, has been divided into two areas: the 70-seat non-smoking area, and the 54-seat “courtyard” smoking area. The latter was devised to replicate an outdoor pub garden, despite being inside. The area is decorated with plants, and benefits from natural light during the day.

“All those windows were covered, and there was no light coming in. We wanted to create an outdoor feel in this area,” explains Lopez, pointing out the row of Brooklyn-inspired windows fitted in the courtyard area. The result achieves daylight during the day, and night-like darkness in the evening, like in an outdoor space.

Despite taking inspiration and design help from abroad, Lopez and Arnel were keen that Brunswick Sports Club hold appeal for all guests, regardless of where they are from. The pared-back design “speaks truth”, Arnel comments. “A lot of restaurants here try to transport you to Venice, or something. But we are in Dubai, you know.”