Swillhouse was founded in 2008 by a bartender named Anton Forte and a waiter called Jason Scott. Working together in Sydney, they bonded over their shared love of Sydney nightlife – and a shared vision of how it could be better. With half an idea and even less experience, they decided to open a bar of their own.
Shady Pines opened in Surry Hills in 2010, at the forefront of a wave of new venues that redefined Sydney’s nightlife and bar culture. The Baxter Inn, a bar dedicated to whisky and blues, opened in the central business district in 2011, followed in 2013 by another basement venue, Frankie’s Pizza (RIP), combining the virtues of a front-room pizzeria with a back room dedicated to hard rock and cold beer, opening late every night of the week.
The French-accented Restaurant Hubert, which opened in 2016 around the corner from Frankie’s in the heart of Sydney’s financial district, was Swillhouse’s first food-led venue – albeit a food-led venue with three bars, live music and a world-class wine list.
In 2018 Jason Scott decided to fulfill his dream of opening a venue in New York City, leaving Swillhouse on amicable terms to open Peppi’s Cellar and Gran Tivoli in Manhattan. Back home in Sydney, that same year saw the arrival of Alberto’s Lounge, the Italian sibling to Restaurant Hubert, opened on a back street of the central business district. Swillhouse’s latest venture, Le Foote, opened its doors in The Rocks in 2023.
“We knew that good bars existed and were operated by regular people like us,” says Forte. “Our goal was to open a bar that we could both work in for the rest of our lives. The last thing we imagined was owning restaurants, bars, live music venues and having a team of 200 staff.”
Today Swillhouse is led by Anton Forte, Allie Webb, Stefan Forte, Toby Hilton, Anthony Moore, and Jordan McDonald. A lot has changed since the business was first founded, but the idea that started it all remains the same: regular people giving their all to make spaces in the city where extraordinary things can happen.