American Bar, Brisbane

Situated at 276-278 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley, the American Bar was operated by George Sklavos between 1911 and ca.1929. George Sklavos was born in the Kytherian village of Mitata in Greece in 1882. He travelled to Australia in 1900, working in New South Wales before moving to Queensland and establishing the American Bar, one of first milk bars in Brisbane.

American Bar, 276-278 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image 29223-0001-0002

Having spent time in the United States, George introduced American style foods into his business. In her 2019 book, Brisbane’s Greek cafes : a million malted milks, Toni Risson described the café – “Signage on the façade advertised the fountain drinks on offer – milkshakes, sodas, and ice-cold fruit juice drinks, all dispensed from an electrically refrigerated unit that stored chilled water, soda water, milk, and ice cream.”

In February 1923, the American Bar made national news, after a young woman burst into the cafe hotly pursued by her husband brandishing a revolver. The Telegraph (16/09/1923) reported – “The astonished cafe patrons had hardly time enough to grasp the meaning of the affair when two policemen dashed through the door and grappled with the gunman.” The woman had been shot in the back before entering the cafe. During the trial, the Daily Standard (16/04/1923) stated that the husband had also fired his gun into the cafe as he stood in the doorway.

George sold the American Bar ca.1929 to David Webster and later established the Atlas Café in Adelaide Street, opposite City Hall. He died on 1 March 1949. His funeral took place at the Greek Orthodox Church of St George in Charlotte Street and he was interred at Toowong Cemetery. Prior to his death he lived at ‘Megaron’, 320 Bowen Terrace, New Farm. According to Toni Risson, half of George’s estate was donated to restoring the village church in Mitata, Greece.

Exhibition – Meet me at the Paragon

State Library’s latest exhibition, Meet me at the Paragon will explore how the creation of American-style cafes enabled Greek migrants of the early to mid-1900s to carve out a new life in a foreign land. The exhibition runs from 27 September 2019 until 15 March 2020.

Meet me at the Paragon digital story