‘I want to see a space that encourages people to learn from each other. These days everything is a money spinner around formalising education and getting qualifications but we’ve forgotten about just doing for the sake of and learning through doing. We want to get people talking again.

‘That’s what I did with my bikes. I learnt from my father in law who used to live in a village in Greece and he didn’t have access to tools so they used what they could get their hands on. And my next door neighbour is a retired mechanic so, through the act of doing, I learnt.

Do you think that an initiative like this fills a void where traditionally it would have been passed down from generation to generation?

I think that’s a really interesting way to look at it that we need to create these community opportunities that previously organically created themselves.

So far we have about 170-180 members. Interest keeps growing before we’ve even opened the doors of the workshop. There are a lot of people owning motorcycles now. Deus Ex Machina has done a great job over the last ten years to raise the profile of the customised motorcycle making it accessible to everyone.

We have a few female members but not enough. We definitely want to raise the profile of women motorcyclists as well because they’re just as capable and as confident on the tools as they are behind bars out on the road.

Our challenge though with Council is that in the old model, businesses have their own zones. We’re a hybrid business so we’re not just the one thing. We’re using both the ramen bar/café and workshop to feed each other. There isn’t a box for Council to tick for us.

If you read what the LEP environmental concerns are, they just don’t exist for us. We’re not disposing huge quantities of oil. We’re not parking bikes or cars out on the street. We’re not painting. We’re not emitting fumes. We’re not running our bikes. We’re not doing any of those things. It’s the same as what somebody would be doing in their own garage at home.’

‘I grew up in an era in the 1980s where you’d leave the Sutherland Shire and come in to the city and see half a dozen bands on the way. Poker machines came in the 1990s and destroyed the music industry in Sydney. We’re here to revitalise it.

‘We’re protectors of our heritage so to speak. I personally think that it’s my obligation as an owner of the building to see it live on for the next generation and generations to come.

‘We’re in the process of looking at about four Australian companies that are interested in leasing it.’

Is there anything in particular that whoever gets the contract, you would like to see the do?

‘As long as they’re Australian and they keep it live entertainment here whether it’s theatre, Vaudeville or whatever.

‘Three stipulating points – the back outside wall will belong to the artist (who just completed his artwork today) for as long as he can paint and the other artists that have used that wall – they’re Australian. They have to use the painter that I’ve commissioned to paint the building and my electrician because he knows it inside out.

‘The huge ceiling lights took us about two months each to restore. In 1999 a hailstorm went through this place and did close to $700,000 worth of damage to everything. It was a swimming pool down here. We never really restored the lights properly – we just sort of temporarily restored them. We’ve spent so much money here now doing the restoration, we decided to spend some time on the lights. We got geniuses in plaster work and basically remoulded them, fixed them up and rewired them. They’re all LED now. That’s the only thing that’s changed in here simply because the first three on each side used to come down to the ground so you could change the globes and then they would be winched back up. We didn’t want them touched any more. If there’s loud music in here we don’t want them rattling and falling down. They’re an important part of the architecture in here.

‘The architect that built this place is responsible for around 2,000 buildings in Sydney. He built the Grace Bros Broadway building. The Hub falls in to the P&O style where the patron would come to the cinema and get ‘taken away’ on a boat. Hence the round circles at the top and the front. They’d come in here and they’d feel like they were going away on a cruise. People needed escapism so theatre was killing it back then.

‘I’m enjoying the work here. It’s our building so it’s a labour of love. I’ve been working on it for two years now. Why wouldn’t you do it up? It’s such a beautiful building.’

‘Unfortunately there is a lack of respect for this kind of art in Australia compared to other countries in the world. I’ve been doing this for 25 years now and if I’d been doing it overseas – somewhere like in Europe – I’d probably be famous by now.’

‘I miss the openness of people in Ecuador – the warmth. They have less money but they have big hearts and big souls and are ready to take you in at any moment. Here it’s a bit colder. This is why I lived in Newtown for so long because it kind of reminded me of that open attitude that South America has.’

What advice would you give Australians about how to improve their lifestyle based on life in Ecuador?

‘Know your neighbour and look at people in the eyes. Give people real hugs. Feel them – don’t just do it because it’s a social courtesy to do it. And just relax a little bit. Stop thinking so much about money and travel as much as you can.’

Do you know your neighbours?

‘I try to but they won’t even look at me in the eyes so I can’t! They won’t even look at me so it’s really hard to even crack a smile.

‘If you just smile at one person they might be having a crappy day and might not smile back. You might feel a little bit sensitive about it but they feel the warmth and they’re probably more likely to smile at the next person they meet. It’s about making a difference in the world step by step. You don’t have to do huge amazing things.’

‘I often think of the person I was or knew when I was 10, 20, 30 or even 40. I think I remember that person and I remember her fondly. But if we shed ourselves every seven or so years, we do change in all sorts of interesting ways. The way I see it, patience and tolerance, maybe they’re constants and you don’t realise they are. Maybe they stay with you.’

Going back to yourself in your 20s or 30s, is there something you would say to yourself back then now if you had the opportunity?

‘You’re perfect. You’re perfect just the way you are.’