Bar Americano wants you to buy a stranger a drink

Author: Harriet Davidson and Emma Breheny
Photography: Alicia Taylor

It's the random acts of kindness that stick in your mind, often delivered by a stranger with no expectation of reward. But what if those gestures were part of a city's culture? In Naples they are, and it could catch on in Melbourne if Bar Americano owner Matt Bax has his way.

Having recently visited Naples, Bax was reminded of the tradition of caffè sospeso, the suspended coffee, a practice where those feeling flush will pay for two coffees at the espresso bar so the next person in need gets a freebie. Bax felt that his own city was becoming more inconsiderate and decided to bring the concept home with him.

"Just because we are growing up into a big crowded city doesn't mean our values must deteriorate," he says.

Last week, Bar Americano introduced a suspended drinks list so patrons can gift a fellow Melburnian an espresso, house Negroni or Amaro Americano. Those who choose to partake will pay standard bar prices for their own drink, but the second drink is subsidised by the bar to encourage people to spread the love. So far the Negroni - the most expensive of the three - has been the most popular choice, a promising sign for Bax's civic-minded move.

"A simple gesture can go far beyond the monetary value," he says.

Make Bar Americano's Modern Lemonade, a not-so-soft drink

The pay-it-forward concept has been seen at other venues around the country, with many cafés giving customers the chance to purchase an extra coffee for those in need. At Rosa's Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia, the Italian tradition has inspired 'pay-it-forward pizza', helping to feed thousands of homeless people.

Bax explains that Bar Americano's system may only involve one beverage, but it's an investment into a better society. It's the little things, right?

Bar Americano, 20 Presgrave Place, Melbourne, Vic,

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