What is Melbourne’s most awesomely dodgy bar or pub?

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They’re the venues that carefully stand aside while you violently throw up all over the bar, clean it off, then gladly serve you yet another jug of beer.

The pubs with dodgy couches so crusty, you’re certain you’ve caught genital lice by sitting on them.

The pubs that inexplicably remain open in the face of Department of Health inspections.

You would never invite a girlfriend or boyfriend to any of these venues – but somehow, they’re all awesome. What is Melbourne’s most awesomely dodgy venue, what antics have you seen when you’ve been there, and what makes them so fantastic?

42 COMMENTS

  1. I have worked security all over Melbourne for last 23 years in the roughest most volatile pubs ever. Dandy, footscray,west heidleberg , St. Albans, sunshine, port Melbourne 20 years ago, springvale, broady, and these places are all like a kindergarten class compared to working overseas in Mexico, America, Peru, Columbia, and Brazil were security guards are Armed and venue owners hire real deal armed gangsters to assist the security. These wanna be gangsters / junkies in Melbourne would not last 2 seconds over there what we call rough they would call a romantic comedy. It’s a completely different scale not even explainable. Instead of calling that tv series underbelly it should be called jellybelly. This is a very safe country believe me our supposed rough pubs here are a safe haven if anyone thinks it’s rough here there in fairyland and really need to drink done concrete and harden up

  2. How about the good old Edwards tavern ! Went there one night saw a band two fights including flying bottles one poor outnumbered bouncer and two busloads of drunk soccer players who let off flares in the place. Clockwork orange engulfed the hole joint. Good times indeed

  3. I think Melbourne is gone way to serious as regards a night out,power tripping bouncers are the cause,give them a pack of chewing gum and a Dickie bow and they think they’re god,it has ruined many a night out for my friends and I,I’m ashamed to say it but Sydney is alot more laid back and easier to ave a drink and a good time

  4. The Excelsior in Thomastown looks like the set of a dodgy movie about domestic violence. Peter Dupas was arrested there after one of hs murders. Kill yourself before you go.

  5. The Rising Scum in Burnley street Richmond. Full of seedy old men any time of the day. Somehow stays open despite the district lack of RSA and numerous visits from the pigs. Gotta love it!

  6. The worst pub in Melbourne is the Cricketers Arms in Richmond, the ‘courtyard’ bar has nails hanging out of the rotted wood and if you are a female, please do yourself a favour and go inside the ladies toilets, I’m convinced it hasn’t been cleaned since the 80’s and the sanitary bin is always overflowing. There’s a bar of soap attached to the basin (who has bars of soap?) It’s SO disgusting. Also what pub do you know that has stones as the courtyard flooring? I’ve only ever bought pre-mixed drinks I can’t imagine if the glasses ever get cleaned. I am amazed it’s still a functioning bar. Absolutely hideous!!

  7. btw: I had spent a small fortune that night tipping all staff an making sure we are all in good spirits. I am thinking of asking for a refund of admission as well as tips. Just a thought.
    Frank Gutter

  8. Cherry Bar? Oh dearest! I thought I was the only one with bouncer issues there. Good to know I am not a hypocrite by having read some of the above statements and comments.
    Here is my take on the Cherry (and sort of most any bar in the Melbourne CBD at this time):

    Rock n roll my ass!

    A tattoo up your neck doesn’t give you instant gratification to be an arsehole. I have been a musician for way too long, and toured say countries those guys are incapable of pronouncing. Yet I do not even give them all the fault they deserve: maybe it’s just that law enforcement and the ever changing rule books of ‘licensed premises’ has taken its toll on rock and roll.

    There really ought to have been a time when going out was fun and involved people being silly and sing and dance. I can not say, since I have been living in Melbourne for 10 years only – but any form of scene that possibly might have been one day, definitely is no more.

    Oh and @Saphire: u are correct – the Rainbow is a classic example of how to retain a good relation with the patrons. I HAVE been thrown out of the Rainbow before, just to be told to come back in after half hour, since I became a good guy again.

    It really does make a difference when going out is about fun and joy – however – enforcing people to do as you would want to see created a lot of issues that are not easily solved – and I still firmly believe though that bouncers ought to have a bit of brain to understand that and capable of handling a night, not eject the wrong people who are just there to initiate a fun night for all.

    What do I say – me sing and dance made me an enemy of the territory – and banned for life. I really can live with that! But I am not sure if some crazy mothef..ker one day doesn’t see it that way!

    Cherry Bar – go get a chill pill and maybe one day we will have a meeting about what had happened – u guys seem to not even being willing to answer calls, thats’s a big shame!

    Frank Gutter

  9. Cherry Bar used to be good.Used to be rock and Roll. Its a Damm kindergarten now where they ask you to drink water instead of alcohol. And the bouncers are idiots who seem to think anyone with an IQ higher than 20 is a smart ass. Cant really see Slash and Nikki Sixx coming to a place and being asked what have you had to drink before or you need to drink water.
    I would still go to Cherry, if not for the bouncers. I want a bar that welcomes you (like the Rainbow in Los Angeles), that wants patrons to have fun (and i dont mean fighting ) just enjoy the night in true rock n roll style. Give me a real Rock venue any day over this wannabe pussy club x

  10. Cherry was once a good bar. Being an old hand in Melbourne’s band scene, I would have to say Cherry Bars security is now keeping out it’s loyal punters of more than 15 years. The last 3 times I have been there I was admitted once, and that was the one time I was intoxicated. On the 2 other occasions I was told to grab some food and come back. On both these occasions I had not had a drink. If you want an old school rock venue only Melbourne can provide then I recommend Pony in the CBD and Brinswick for the real deal. The Cherry is dead to me!

  11. there are a few places you can have the pleasure of visiting that
    seem to almost hum with personality. It was as if the building was
    willing to take a break from its daily activity to let a band come
    on it and play some songs. I reckoned the greyhound to be one of those
    joints. I don’t know what happened there before we ar…rived, and i don’t
    know what happened after we left, but i do know that in the short time
    that we were there, we were regulars, woven forever into its story

  12. The Orrong Hotel in Armadale. Costs bugger all (except for the stale overpriced beer in the bottleshop) for that local experience of groaning plates from the bistro and cold beer from the owner as she uses her A-frame to move around behind the bar. If you can get over the bright lights from the TAB, torn pool table surface, slow service and the regulars who hate each other then it can be a great experience.

    RSA is just something those fancy new pubs deal with, as you can throw a credit card over the bar when you’re bordering on throwing up and still get served for a few more hours. Strongly suggest not turning up with any footy colours – can be unhealthy.

  13. JJs bar at Crown has put prices up to a massive 10 dollars a drink. Their pretentious snobbery makes it uncomfortable for out of towners and locals alike who are usually finishing off their night from elsewhere. Snotty bar staff and thin skinned managers who can’t take positive criticism about their appalling social skills. Give it a miss, there are plenty of better places such as Silk, Manhattan Lane, Long Room, Comme Bar, Spice. The list is endless

  14. Is it sad that I have fond memories of lots of these places?

    I’d nominate upstairs at the Portland (stickiest carpet I’ve ever squelched, and added bonus of poles). Not sure if it’s open generally as a bar though, or just for corporate functions…

  15. The comments regarding the Carlton (in Bourke St) must be channelling the *former* incarnation of this renowned tavern before it was spruced up in the late 90s. Prior to that, it was definitely one of the ‘last on the list’ city joints to end the night at.
    But staying in historical vein, I want to put in a bid for The Club on Smith St. Before it closed down after a murder (which indicates the kind of class joint we are dealing with), you would descend two or even three floors to a sticky-carpeted, moth-eaten pool-tabled den of smoke and beer and crap bands … to resurface some indefinite period of time later to the scent of Melbourne’s crappest hotdog stand. Ooo-wee, loved those days!

  16. I went to the Curtain for the first time and yes, it’s like the Arty without the punks. Grotty.

    I’d like to nominate the Doulton Bar at the end of Acland Street on Barkly in St.Kilda. It has no discernable crowd, just guaranteed alcos. In an area famed for its sun and fun vibe, it hides behind smoked front windows, low ceilings and a convoluted layout, possibly to hide the organ keeping it alive: the TAB. Plus, it’s part of a complex called the Village Belle. If that was the best my village could do, I’d start drowning ducks.

  17. I know a lot of people hate it, but I’m going to go with St Jerome’s. Filthy unisex toilets, unreliable power, longnecks of Melbourne Bitter, and everything else in plastic cups, the scent of rotting garbage wafting in from Caledonian Lane… Despite all this I have never had a bad night there and lament its imminent closure :(

  18. Codeape: The Joint is the best place in Melbourne to end an epic night. The place doesn’t close, and unless you actually manage to vomit on the security guards, you’ll always be let in.

    But, for the sake of diversity and originality, I’m going to nominate the combo of Pony and Cherry. Although in the “post-Jet/Melbourne Denim Rock” haze, they’ve turned into mecca for the kiddies, they used to be awesome places where you could get poleaxed and lose your shit to Sabbath. Cherry is/was particularly infamous for not-so-

    If you remember going to Pony – you weren’t really at Pony! :3

  19. The Tote.

    Many nights I have stopped in there while attempting to walk home to Clifton Hill from Fitzroy, either for a last drink, a wee, or just to check out the crowd that came to see whatever the band was that night. Also, much like at Pony, I have had some epic seedy adventures in the upstairs toilet.

  20. peter: vadette in footscray. esp on punk nights. sometimes they do punk karaoke in the beer garden, kinda funny watching punks murdering love ballads….

    surely not! Vedette is such a classy establishment, well.. for Footscray, at least.

  21. Pony is definitely up there, but I’m surprised no one has mentioned the Greyhound in Balaclava (or st.kilda, whatever it is).

  22. Fijn: Cam: I like the John Curtin Hotel for one reason: it’s got (hands down) the best urinal graffiti in Melbourne (though the Great Britain’s is okay). Someone wrote “Baise la Police” (fuck the police, in french) and someone else corrected it to “Baise les police”. Really, who corrects grammar in urinal graffiti?

    I was looking hard for good graffiti in there, but either the smell was misting my eyes, or they’ve cleaned up recently, ’cause there was just a ham-fisted rewording of a Government Health Campaign “ALCOHOL WILL RAPE YOU!” poster and a few lame tags . . .

    I’ll take a closer look next week for this quality francais of which you speak :-P

  23. Cam: I like the John Curtin Hotel for one reason: it’s got (hands down) the best urinal graffiti in Melbourne (though the Great Britain’s is okay). Someone wrote “Baise la Police” (fuck the police, in french) and someone else corrected it to “Baise les police”. Really, who corrects grammar in urinal graffiti?

  24. The Curtin, opposite Trades Hall.

    Looks like a lounge room, smells like a toilet – possibly due to their urinals, which are indistinguishable in scent from the Lion Pit at the Melbourne Zoo.

    On the food front, the new chef recently upgraded their $8.00 pasta to $11.00 pasta by value-adding the taste of burnt plastic and making the penne crunchier. Meanwhile, their cheeky little risotto is now indistinguishable from curry spew.

    Beer-wise, things start to pick up, with a choice of Carlton Draught or some weird-arse Coopers variant, and a couple of dodgy looking taps which are probably plumbed into the aforementioned urinals.

    As with many pubs, access to the beer is gained via the relatively inoffensive bar staff – inoffensive except for one bipolar barmaid who looks like she has her makeup done by the creature effects department behind Stargate – and the beer itself is surprisingly cheap.

    (No extra charge is levelled for the addition of a shot of lime cordial to the Carlton Draught, which is a must if you are at all averse to the flavour of ripe dog shit.)

  25. Until last year, I would’ve said the Vaucluse in Richmond, but they’ve gone and wankered it up. The sticky carpet and elderly barflies have gone, replaced with polished concrete and coffee wankers.

    So, instead, I’ll go with the Rising Sun in Richmond. Because the carpet is slighly less sticky, and the elderly barflies slightly less obnoxious, but the spirit is the same.

  26. vadette in footscray. esp on punk nights. sometimes they do punk karaoke in the beer garden, kinda funny watching punks murdering love ballads….

  27. The best bar in Melbourne is Tiger Bar especially on Friday nights, oh so cheap drinks =)
    Often intending to go out other places I just end up staying there drunk over $7 jugs and $2 Sparklings!

  28. Charm: I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the Carlton Hotel.
    Yes, they serve the best finger food (mmm mushroom risotto balls!) and their drinks are well made, but!! they have spray on velvet covering nearly every surface!
    Every time I go there I’m scared to lean on anything in case I get covered in it myself!

    Yeh I know what you mean. For me it’s the scary lifesize stuffed emu standing over the bar STARING at me everytime I order a drink. One day it will come to life and kill us all.

  29. The Public Bar, hands down.
    Apparently they have recently upped the price of pots on Mondays from $1 to $1.50.
    Quite the rate of inflation, I suppose, but still the cheapest crap beer in town.

  30. The Joint should be disqualified on the grounds that it is a backpacker haunt and therefore a bloodhouse of scum and villianry by very definition.

    Voting the Great Britain because they plain don’t seem to give a f*ck.

  31. The Post Office in Coburg – okay, so it helps that it’s at the end of my street, but what was once a feared pub has become a bastian of just gettin’ boozy. There’s no pretention, there’s no wankery, it’s just dudes drinking as much beer as possible, and playing a few games of stick. There’s even a laminated table that has a photo of Jessica Simpson

  32. Great Britain in Richmond. Tacky decour, they have a beer on tap called ‘Piss’ and you can accidentally set yourself on fire and they still won’t kick you out.

  33. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the Carlton Hotel.

    Yes, they serve the best finger food (mmm mushroom risotto balls!) and their drinks are well made, but!! they have spray on velvet covering nearly every surface!

    Every time I go there I’m scared to lean on anything in case I get covered in it myself!

  34. The Joint is the best place in Melbourne to end an epic night. The place doesn’t close, and unless you actually manage to vomit on the security guards, you’ll always be let in.

    But, for the sake of diversity and originality, I’m going to nominate the combo of Pony and Cherry. Although in the “post-Jet/Melbourne Denim Rock” haze, they’ve turned into mecca for the kiddies, they used to be awesome places where you could get poleaxed and lose your shit to Sabbath. Cherry is/was particularly infamous for not-so-clandestine sex in the disabled toilets.

    My favourite Pony moment was convincing the bartender to give me eight (8) shots of Jack Daniel’s in a pint glass, topped with coke, which I then proceeded to chug as they closed immediately afterwards.

    RSA? What’s that?

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