Vernon Chalker, founder of Melbourne's Gin Palace bar, has died

"He just knew how to make people happy, and he threw a hell of a good party," said friend Paula Scholes, aka Miss Pearls.
"He just knew how to make people happy, and he threw a hell of a good party," said friend Paula Scholes, aka Miss Pearls. Photo: Craig Sillitoe

Vernon Chalker, the legendary bar doyen behind Melbourne institutions Gin Palace and Bar Ampere has died at the age of 55.

The news comes as a blow to the bar community. Chalker's venues are some of Melbourne's most highly regarded and successful, both for their high quality drinks and service, but also their irreverent, theatrical spark.

Gin Palace, a silky den with one of the city's greatest collections of the product, has remained a Melbourne attraction for 22 years. The adjoining Bar Ampere, opened in 2011, offers a space-age aesthetic, and encourages drinkers to engage with the ideas of futurism, a philosophical movement popularised in Italy in the early 1900s. Many attribute the longevity of the bars to Chalker's non-formulaic formula.

Vernon Chalker, owner of Gin Palace, has died at 55.
Vernon Chalker, owner of Gin Palace, has died at 55. Photo: Craig Sillitoe

Chalker was also a co-founder of Madame Brussels and Collins Quarter with longtime business partner, friend and confidant Paula Scholes, otherwise known as Miss Pearls.

Scholes, who was first hired by Chalker to work as the bouncer for Gin Palace, paid tribute to her mentor saying, "he was one of a kind. The boy from the country who came to the city and just creamed it."

ScholesĀ believes his success was down to "his ability to put great people together, and make truly long-lasting relationships. He just knew how to make people happy, andĀ he threw a hell of a good party."