A Brisbane Brew: The Mana Bar Story

A Brisbane Brew: The Mana Bar Story
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“No matter what happens, no matter where things go, that day — that process and this experience — I wouldn’t take any of that back. All the fights, the arguments, the pressure. All the stress, the bad stuff, the really terrible stuff. It was all absolutely, totally worth it for that day, for that moment. It was just something else.”

Two years ago, four friends did the impossible — they opened the world’s first video game bar. This is their story. It’s a story about friendship, a story about drunken debauchery and ball pits, but most of all it’s a story about following your stupid, stupid dreams, to their ultimate conclusion, against all sane advice to the contrary.

This is the story of The Mana Bar.

It Started With A Ball Pit

“Hi. My name is Yug and I like parties. I like throwing parties. I like hosting parties. That’s my thing. I get my kicks off seeing other people having a good time because of me. That may sound egotistical, but I don’t care! I like feeling as though everyone’s having a good time.”

Meet Guy ‘Yug’ Blomberg. Guy Blomberg is the closest thing the Australian Games Industry has to John Belushi — a real-life Slurms McKenzie. Guy always seems to be wearing a suit, but somehow keeps it casual. His hair is ruffled, but calculatedly so. He has a gift for making people feel at ease. One look at Guy Blomberg and you see a man that was born to party. The Mana Bar was his idea; that fact makes perfect sense.

“When I lived in Brisbane I used to throw these massive events,” begins Guy. “I’d constantly be trying to outdo myself. I lived with DJs, and we used to have these parties with Firebreathers and magicians and live performers and bands…

“I wanted to make the parties that people remembered.”

“I had this balcony that was bigger than the actual apartment itself! It was awesome. I remember one time I just went out and bought 3000 ballpit balls because I decided I wanted a ballpit. I wanted to make the parties that people remembered.

“I wanted people to be like, ‘Remember that party with the ballpit? That was amazing!'”

It was in this environment, amidst fire-breathers and ball pits, that the seed was planted, and the initial concept for The Mana Bar began to gestate,

“I used to do a lot of those kind of events,” says Guy, “and I was doing Australian Gamer at the time, so I started organising parties just for the Brisbane gaming community and developers. I’d try and do them in non-traditional gaming environments. I’d have awesome entertainers — the fire breathers and the DJs — but I’d also set up a projector, with the Wii or Guitar Hero or whatever.

“Then I started implementing the projector set-up into regular parties, parties filled with people who you wouldn’t traditionally think would be into playing video games. I found that everyone was playing the games — gaming was more popular than the ball pit!

“I was surprised — there were more girls playing than guys. And again, this wasn’t like a gaming party. This was just a party with real, serious, party people — and a lot of hipster wankers as well! Everyone was getting into the games, but they were also drinking. They’d get a drink, play the game for a while, then pick up the drink again. Or they’d stand around and watch, while drinking. It was this natural thing.

“And that’s kind of where the idea came from — the idea that maybe this whole drinking and gaming thing could work.”

Stupid Ideas

It was at this point that Guy Blomberg began telling everyone about his crazy idea to open a video gaming bar.

“I was just like this… this could be awesome.

“I’m all about creating stupid ideas and then trying as hard as you can to get them through somehow. But I just had no idea. I had no business experience. I’m terrible with money. I had never run a bar before; I had never even poured a drink. I had no idea about the hospitality industry. I had nothing, yet I started talking to a lot of people, being really open about it. I was like, ‘we’re gonna do a gaming bar!'”

“A couple of the people I had been talking to were a couple of really good friends of mine, one of them was called Pras and the other was Yahtzee.”

Pras Moorthy is a designer at SEGA Studios Australia, then known as The Creative Assembly. Pras had a background in Finance and Risk Management. Yahtzee was Yahtzeethe Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation fame, known in real life as Ben Croshaw.

“Pras is a very stiff guy,” explains Guy, “but he’s also really, really smart with numbers, maths, finance, stuff like that. That’s kind of his thing. He said, ‘let’s put a business plan together’.

“Yahtzee got on board mainly because he’s a good friend of mine and, well… he was just bored! He does Zero Punctuation every week, and I would drag him into my crazy ideas every now and then. We tried to do a gaming TV show before and I was like, ‘well, that didn’t work, but we can try this!’ He was sort of like… ‘alright then’. But Yahtzee — he really brought an international level of credibility to the idea.”

The Mana Bar concept began to find traction and momentum.

“We were so enthusiastic,” he says. “We started looking for leases and setting up the company and stuff like that — this was late 2008. I was so confident I actually put up a website saying ‘Mana Bar: Coming Soon! Early 2009’

“But, yeah… it didn’t quite happen like that.”

Proving Video Games Are Art

“Both myself and Pras had full time jobs and Yahtzee had Zero Punctuation — but we worked on The Mana Bar constantly,” says Guy. “It was an on the side thing, but we took it very seriously. We put our money into it, started a company and began going through the process of opening a bar.”

It was during Guy’s walk to his day job that he spotted his dream venue.

“I saw this little bar down the street, this tiny little bar,” says Guy. “It used to be called the Mango Bar and it had shut down. I’d walk past it every day on my way to work. It was just perfect. I didn’t want a big bar, I wanted a small bar. This is what I had in my head. That was the venue.”

But Guy wasn’t prepared for the incredible obstacles his choice of venue would create.

“The kind of hoops you have to jump through to open a bar is really… confusing,” laughs Guy.

“You need a community impact statement, a risk assessment management plan, you need the sound levels tested, you need to make sure you have written statements from surrounding businesses — is there a school nearby? What time will you close and what’s the liquor licensing hours? Not only that, but the venue was actually part of a government building! And that particular building only allowed businesses to open up if it had some sort of artistic merit according to the government.

“So we actually had to prove to the Queensland government that video games were art!”

“So we actually had to prove to the Queensland government that video games were art!”

At this point Guy, Pras and Yahtzee — who had pre-existing relationships with almost everyone involved in the Brisbane game development scene — started to call in a few favours in an attempt to complete this elusive endeavour.

“We got statements from all the local developers, all the managing directors, trying to actually put a case together,” says Guy.

“The whole document we put together was great, but just as we handed it in, the most amazing thing happened. The ‘Game On’ festival began. The Game On Exhibition was held in the Queensland State Library and was government funded! Here’s an exhibit, at the library, celebrating the history and artistic merit of video games, and we had the curator of the event write a big document stating that gaming has artistic merit.”

And so it came to be that Guy Blomberg, with the help of the State Library, managed to prove to the Queensland government that video games were, indeed, art.

Preparing To Lose

But for Guy Blomberg convincing the Queensland government that video games are art was a cakewalk. Convincing his friends and family that The Mana Bar was a sustainable, sensible idea was a different matter entirely.

“It sounds pretty straightforward now, but back then walking around telling people you were going to open a video game bar — people were like, ‘well no one’s going to drink. It’s going to be full of people just playing games. That won’t be popular. It won’t work,'” says Guy.

“Even my family, they were used to me coming up with crazy ideas — but they were like, ‘this won’t work’.”

“The idea was in my head. It was either going to work or fail spectacularly. There was no in-between.”

Guy’s Uncle took a particularly proactive role.

“My Uncle actually took me out to visit some friends of his that owned bars and venues in the Gold Coast, just so he could get them to try and talk me out of it,” says Guy.

“These guys, who owned bars, were like, ‘Look, you’re going for a 60-person capacity venue, it’s a niche concept, you’re looking to be open seven nights a week — if people are playing games, they’re not drinking. If they’re holding a controller they’re not drinking.’

“And ‘people who game aren’t big drinkers’, that was the other one — ‘you need people who are big drinkers, you need regular clientele,’ they said. ‘You need people who are going to turn up when up when it opens and stay until it closes’.”

But despite his Uncle’s best efforts, Guy was not easily dissuaded, and his enthusiasm eventually won his family over.

“I had to do it,” he explains. “The idea was in my head. It was either going to work or fail spectacularly. There was no in-between.

“The whole time we were putting this together we were aware: this was a risk. At no point did we really expect to get our investment back. We thought it would be nice, but that wasn’t our real motivation.

“The money that was put in, we were prepared to lose.”

First Impressions Count!

Guy, Pras and Yahtzee were aware of the risks and prepared for the worst, but that didn’t make the pressure of opening a risky bar venture any less real.

“You have to remember — all three of us were very different personalities,” begins Guy. “With myself, Yahtzee and Pras you had the optimist, the pessimist and the realist — three very strong personalities. We had lots of arguments. Lots of arguments; lots of yelling and screaming about everything.”

Most of the arguments arose from attempts by Pras to temper Guy’s often extravagant vision for the bar.

“I remember one time, before we opened, there was a massive argument about the walls,” laughs Guy. “Because the venue was in Brisbane it had a very tall ceiling — like metres high. We’d painted it up, but I said, ‘the walls look really boring’.

“I wanted to print out a whole bunch of old-school video game posters, box art, cool stuff — and I wanted to put it over the wall in art deco kind of thing. Pras was like, ‘No, we can’t afford that, and we don’t have the time. It’s not in the budget and, more importantly, it doesn’t need to be in the budget.’

“I was like, ‘first impressions count! We have to have this! I’ll print them out, I’ll go myself!’

“I had to take a day to cool off after that! In hindsight, I was thankful I had Pras to sort of pull me back a bit.”

For the most part, Yahtzee was a passive observer; but some occasions demanded his uniquely acerbic communication skills.

“He got passionate about the strangest things, like when we wanted to line up a bunch of figurines across this beam near the roof above the bar,” recalls Guy. “Yahtzee was like, ‘No… that would look terrible. Don’t… no. That’s horrible.’ I was like, ‘It’ll be great!’ And he was like, ‘NO’. That was the big thing he put his foot down on! It was bizarre!”

But then roughly half way through the project, Yahtzee began to get a little nervous — The Mana Bar was a time sink, and he was worried about the opening.

“We had a lot of delays,” admits Guy. “We ended up opening a year and half after we expected to.

“There was this moment when Yahtzee sort of took a step back. The agreement was that we would all be really involved in it, but Yahtzee was getting really nervous. He was like, ‘I don’t want to be there every night, this is actually stressful’.”

The solution was clear: it was time to add a fourth member to The Mana Bar team.

“At that point there was another good friend of mine, Shay,” begins Guy. “And Shay was a bar guy.

“Think of your typical drunken reprobate, but classy — the kind of guy that would have worked well in an old style New York speak-easy. Like really cool — but you wouldn’t trust him with your daughter. That’s Shay. He started advising us on the bar side of things, because he had opened bars up and down the coast.”

As one of the most accomplished bartenders in Australia, Shay’s initial response to Guy’s video game bar idea was hilariously abrupt.

“When I told Shay about this idea, before I had even mentioned it to Pras and Yahtzee, he was adamant — ‘That’s the stupidest f**king idea I’ve ever heard. Ever. This bar is absolutely retarded. It is a terrible idea. No one will go. No one will drink, and I would be embarrassed to work there’.”

But somehow, later down the track, Guy managed to convince Shay that a video game bar was a worthwhile investment, and The Mana Bar had its fourth partner. According to Guy, the momentum and expertise that came with Shay’s involvement was invaluable.

“The addition of Shay, to the three of us, made us feel that this bar — this crazy video game bar — could actually work.”

The Yahtzee Effect

Yahtzee may have taken a slight step back from the day to day minutiae of opening a video game bar, but his presence and his brand was infectious and made for an easy pitch to overseas gaming press.

Guy calls it ‘The Yahtzee Effect’.

“There is such a thing as ‘The Yahtzee Effect’. It’s a very real thing,” laughs Guy. “He is this mythical creature; you don’t see his face very often. People were like, ‘Yahtzee’s opening a bar? I have to go Australia and visit Yahtzee’s bar!’

“We actually had a couple of conversations with Brisbane marketing and they were really excited because there was this buzz about Brisbane internationally. They said, ‘people are talking about coming to Brisbane because of a Yahtzee bar. What’s a Yahtzee bar?’ I sort of just said, ‘Well… let me tell you a story’.”

Yahtzee’s influence on The Mana Bar’s ability to gain overseas traction was so great that it affected the way Guy wrote all the press releases advertising the bar’s opening night.

“When I did the first press releases I did 16 different variations,” says Guy. “There was the press release that went out to the local Brisbane street press. That was like, ‘Local Brisbane boys tackle the world with the world’s first gaming bar!’

“Then there was the press release that went out to the local gaming press — ‘Australia’s first video game bar’. For international gaming website, the press release I sent out to them was ‘YAHTZEE’S NEW GAMING BAR ABOUT TO OPEN!’”

Guy’s steadfast belief in The Mana Bar concept led him to believe that they would get press, but not even he was prepared for the reaction, particularly overseas.

“I was surprised by the amount of non-gaming sites that picked it up internationally,” he says.

“The story got picked up by Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. I started getting calls from radio stations in random American cities, like Boston and Cleveland. I’d be awake at 3am doing Skype conversations with random KBBL style radio stations — ALL THE HITS! — that was totally bizarre to me!”

Cloud Cuckoo Land

To recap: Guy and Pras had convinced the Queensland government that games were art. Yahtzee had convinced the world’s press that The Mana Bar was a magical beam of light that shone from his arse, but the biggest challenge still lay ahead — opening night!

But before they could even think about that, a liquor licence was required, and it proved elusive.

“A liquor licence takes about 3-4 months to process,” says Guy, “but they don’t tell you when it’s going to come through. Our liquor licence only came through a week before we opened.”

According to Guy, applying for a liquor licence, for potential bar owners, can be a terrifying, logistical nightmare.

“They say, ‘we’ll look at it within one to three months’, but if they look at it, and they don’t approve it, you’re back to square one,” he says.

“There was this venue in Brisbane, I mean a big, big venue, that had just opened up — probably four to five months before we did. They had their big opening launch, but they got fined a lot of money because their liquor licence hadn’t come through. They had all this media lined up and decided they were just going to go ahead and cop the fine. That’s how the industry is.

“It was the same for us. We had to plan and start promoting the opening months in advance, without actually knowing if the liquor licence would come through. We gave it enough time, but what if it got refused? There were no guarantees.”

At this point, so close to the opening, the pressure was intense. The team was at breaking point.

“We were haemorrhaging money” says Guy. “Our expectations were all completely out of whack on how much everything would cost, and we were pulling in favours from friends left, right and centre. The painting of the bar was done by about 20 friends — people who were working day and night just to paint the place. One of my friends, Alix, was a sheet metal worker who created everything from the TV screen protectors to the massive light-up sign above the front door. We pulled in all the favours we possibly could.

“At this point Pras and I were still working full-time jobs. I was getting into work at 8.30, knocking off at 5.30, getting home, getting changed and going to the bar. We were there scrubbing the toilets! We were sanding the floors, lacquering them, everything.”

And all the while, as opening night approached, the spectre of the liquor licence loomed large. Would The Mana Bar even be ready for opening night?

“My stress levels at that point were through the roof,” claims Guy. “I had spoken to everyone about getting coverage and all the while I’m thinking — if we don’t get our liquor licence, what are we going to do? Our media night was the day before, people were flying up. These were people I respected, some of them were friends. We started to wonder what our contingency plan was. We had already delayed the opening twice already.

“And still there was scepticism. People were critical. As much as some thought it was a cool idea, most thought it was just going to be a massive nerd fest of sweaty neckbeards playing games. Most people expected a trainwreck, so there was a lot of pressure in that respect.”

But then — relief. The liquor licence arrived with a week to spare. Guy and the rest of the guys did what any reasonable group of adults would do in such a high-pressure situation…

“We drank,” laughs Guy. “We had a big night. A huge night, which probably wasn’t the best idea a week before opening! It was emotional — not quite tears, but as close as a group of guys can get to tears.”

Opening Night

March 20, 2010. Guy Blomberg trudges towards The Mana Bar — 420 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley — in a serious state of disrepair; hungover from last night’s soft launch, a media event for close friends and select members of the press. But that was just a dry run, a dress rehearsal. Today was the real thing.

“I remember it so well — 8am — after this massive media event, an event where I was running around like a madman. Obviously I was hungover — but I turned up at the bar at 8am regardless, because we had so much to do…

“And as I walk in the front entrance there’s three guys sitting in the doorway.

“I’m like, ‘what are you doing here?’

“‘We’re lining up for the opening’.

“I just said, ‘why are you guys lining up!’

Incredibly, two of the three people lining up had flown interstate, eager to witness the launch of the world’s first video game bar. The grand opening was at 12 midday, four hours away — and Guy, Pras, Yahtzee and Shay still had plenty to do in preparation.

“We were inside working away,” says Guy, but as time went on, that line grew quite significantly — to the point when we did open, the line went down around the block and around the street on the other side, for this tiny little 60 person capacity bar.

How many were in the queue?

“Hundreds. Easily hundreds. And the enthusiasm was incredible.”

And then at 12, just like that, The Mana Bar severed its umbilical cord, making its final transformation from an insane, almost pathologically stupid idea into something very, very real.

The Mana Bar was open for business.

“Right away it was crazy. The atmosphere was electric. It was awesome. I almost wished I could see it from the perspective of everyone seeing the bar for the first time,” says Guy.

“I think everyone had an idea what it might be like, but it’s like — very similar to developing a game — you spend years developing this thing, working out the odds and ends, going through all the terrible stress and pressure, then there’s the crunch… and then the game goes out to the public and they play it.

“For us The Mana Bar was a very good game. It was a highly rated metacritic success!”

Incredibly, the Mana Bar’s very first 12-hour shift passed without a single hitch.

“We had no problems, no issues. We had no f**kwits,” claims Guy.

“And that was the thing that shocked Shay, because Shay is from the hospitality industry, and when you’re from the hospitality industry, customers are kinda dicks. Don’t get me wrong — you treat them nice, you smile, etc — but customers, especially drunk people, are difficult.

“I was like, ‘this is awesome.’ Shay was like ‘I don’t understand…’”

Then, as the sun began to set on Brisbane, rain began to patter on the hordes of cosplaying gamers queuing to participate in this unique moment in gaming history. Pras did the sensible thing and handed out umbrellas, Guy darted from group to group like Slurms Mackenzie on undiluted cordial. Shay poured drinks, and Yahtzee… tolerated the presence of other human beings.

But overall, there was the sense that something important was happening.

“It seemed as though everyone saw what we were trying to do, and they understood,” says Guy. “They understood that we weren’t trying to just open up another gimmicky bar.

“This bar is a celebration of gaming culture – it’s an excuse to celebrate the things that we like, and the passions we have. In the past gamers have been ostracised, or looked down upon, but this bar is a real validation — it says ‘I’m not an anti-social person, and there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m passionate about this, in the same way you’re passionate about sports, or anything for that matter.’

“That kind of mentality — a lot of people grabbed onto that I think.

“At least, that’s how I see it.”

Last Call

“We closed the doors at 12 midnight,” says Guy, “and there were a few people who stuck around. Shay actually went out drinking afterwards to celebrate because he’s an absolute machine. Me? I just went home, because I knew we had to wake up and start all over again tomorrow. And that felt great.

“I was just on a high, but I was still hungover from the night before!”

Behind closed doors, Pras, Guy, Yahtzee and Shay breathed a sigh of relief, before affording themselves a brief moment of reflection.

Guy says, “Yahtzee sat back and said, ‘So it didn’t f**k up like I said it would. Oh well, there’s still time’. Pras looked at the till and he was delighted. I looked at the people and thought, ‘this really works’. As for Shay — I think he was just happy his reputation wasn’t ruined.

“It was hard work, but every day from that point on was just so exciting, because it was our bar – The Mana Bar. It was a dream come true. Every guy at one point has turned round to their mate and said, ‘You know what? We should open a bar!’ But we actually went through with it.

“And whatever happens, from this point forward, we did it first, and we did it right.

“We did it big, we did it loud, and we did it in f**king Brisbane!”

You can follow Guy ‘Yug’ Blomberg on Twitter or via his personal website.


  • This is a great story. It really made me feel like I was on the journey with them.
    It almost makes me feel bad that despite living in Brisbane I’ve never managed to make it to the Mana Bar.

    • Yeah, I’m ashamed I’ve never been there too, despite living in Brisbane. I’ve always wanted to, plus I have a mate who lives down the road from it constantly bugging me to head along. Dammit I’ll have to go very soon!

    • Ive tried to go twice, both times it was at capacity. Once was on a monday night. And this was ages after the opening. Crazy that its still working so well!

      • Hey Trjn, don’t hate on the business. I don’t work the hours that I work and dedicate my time to people like you. I do this for the fans. For the community, what can you do fo rthe community other then troll on my shiz. I know people, I’ve been a part of the back bone of gaming Australia wide. All I want to do is share an experience. I’d love for you to share yours mate so I can comment!!! hey?!

        Follow me at http://www.yugstar.com

  • Shay makes a mean cocktail; bit of a rock star. His girlfriend and her best friend are a secksay duo too!

  • Been there. Really didn’t like it. Was completely dead. Story makes it sound awesome though.

    But I’m a big time gamer and USED to be a big time drinker and once was enough for me. Way too small. Way too dark inside. Feels like a shoebox with games up and down the sides.

    If you’re going to drink and game, home’s the place for it. When out, drinking and dancing (or talking) is much more fun. When I’m looking at the tv screen, I can’t check out the girls!

    But on them for backing themselves. I hope they’re doing well.

      • Agreed… I’d be interested to hear how the guys think the bar is doing now. It’s still somewhat busy on Friday and Saturday nights, but… something’s just not right. It’s missing the “vibe” it once had and there’s noticeably less and less people as a result (not the other way around, imo).
        The guys who own the bar are nowhere to be seen, which is fair enough as I’m sure they’re all doing other things; but it’s like the whole place is on auto-pilot. Put on some random video games and an increasingly generic playlist, dump a couple of people behind the bar, and hope the mere presence of the bar is enough for the money to roll in. It isn’t, and that’s not how it used to be. Things went particularly downhill after Melbourne opened, so maybe it’s a lack of resources, but whatever it is, there’s a level of neglect that shows – and that’s bad.
        At some venues it wouldn’t matter, but Mana Bar is too small to lose its uniqueness and atmosphere.

        • Yug moved to Sydney, and as he was basically there every night, he carried a lot of the buzz.

          They also used to do INTENSE social media marketing, which died when he left too.

    • Thing is Sxio, there’s other people who The Mana Bar is PERFECT for. People who may never have realised they’re gamers but through The Mana Bar get introduced to something they’re going to value for the rest of their lives.

      You’ve got a network of awesome friends you can invite over for games and drinks? That’s fucking fantastic! How heartbreaking is it to think that there are people who will NEVER HAVE THAT?

      The Mana Bar is a place where folks who might never have had that opportunity can get introduced to it. Hopefully they’ll fall in love with it and go off and starting hosting games parties out of their living room just like we do. That will make room for new potential games converts and through that one venue the industry grows just a little bit more.

    • I was down in Melbourne to see some friends when their grandmother fell over and was hospitalised… obviously i was not going to intrude on that but was stuck fending for myself for the night.
      First thing i did was head to Mana bar (I’m a Sydneysider so no Mana Bar love for us just yet), it was great!!! Had a couple of beers, played some games, chatted to the bar staff and patrons who were all keen gamers! Everyone was very friendly and happy to have a chat. I had a great afternoon!
      Definately wouldn’t have been the same in any other pub!

    • Yeah I went a few times, in fact I was there on the opening day in that line they mentioned. That said, it’s not really my thing. I love games, but as a result I own all the ones I want and I prefer to just get the friends around to my place and sit on a sofa where it’s all a bit more comfortable and relaxed (and I can pick the games). When the article says the venue is small, I’m not sure how well that depicts how ‘cosy’ it is. I’d say my living room is larger. Some don’t mind, others like it. TBH I find it too claustrophobic for my liking.

      On the other hand, many of my friends absolutely loved it and think I’m insane for not feeling the same. Hopefully they’re still going strong. Also Guy/Yug was really pleasant the time or two I conversed with him also.

  • Geez Mark, massive piece. A good read. Nothing really “surprising” there, but it’s still interesting to have a look at what they were going through.

  • Good work bringing it together guys!
    Glad to finally get the background on this self indulgent B ar S cene.
    Been to both Brisvegas and M’bourne’s now and sadly it is filled with sweaty nerds sporting neck beards. But hey, thats the demographic. Oh and fat chicks. Many emo fat chicks. Because they need loving too.
    Also, Yug and ‘Slerms McKenzie’ only share a physical resemblance.
    Awww how good is this?!

  • Having been to the Mana bar in Melbourne a few times myself. I can safely say that I love going there. It’s always a blast with good friends, competitive gaming amongst ourselves and a few drinks to kill the night.

  • I went to the Melbourne one just after it opened during a quick holiday – was impressed by the set up. It had been open about a week and it was a bit quiet but it was apparently their first quiet night so far (yay for Tuesdays). I could see it being a bit more fun with more people to get the atmosphere going. I saw Yug but didn’t say hi – it felt weird seeing as though I didn’t know his actual name and all that awkwardness. As for a gaming bar in Perth – it would be cool but I just don’t think we’re ready – places like OneUp Microcinema prove you can do niche stores here but you need a few different angles to work with (ie retail, movies, retro games in their case).

  • I’ve always wanted to go to the one in Melbourne. A shame my old friends were terrible and never invited me when they went…

  • i was there on opening night! loved the entertainment provided to people in the queue.

    hopefully this article gives it more popularity again, its been kinda empty recently.

  • They do need to expand the bar somehow. It’s just a BIT too small especially when things get going. ;P
    Their cocktails are the best I’ve had, too. Nom.

    Surprisingly the nights I’ve gone I’ve never seen a neckbeard or fat chick. How odd. Then again I haven’t gone into The Valley in few months (uni is a bitch), and if I have it’s only been to The Beat or The Bank.
    So if it’s been slacking off recently I wouldn’t really know.

  • Guys… I’m sorry but this isn’t on.
    ANOTHER piece on the Manabar?
    I get it, they have done well, followed a crazy dream and brought it to reality…
    But is it news worthy?
    I NEVER see Kotaku covering these guys supporting thier events…

    Why throw this self indulgent, poorely crafted tripe into the mix. Slow news year?
    I read Kotaku every chance I get and this is just a poor reflection of what you would hope to find on a day to day basis.

    This is LESS about the Manabar and MORE about Yug… WTF is a YUG anyway?!!!.
    How’s the community Yug? Detail some events? hows the business looking? you need any investors? Planning to bring it to other states? Had anyone famous in the bar? Whats the most amazing thing to happen so far? hows Melbourne Going?
    This is the stuff I want to hear.
    Not about you and the ‘lack of personalities’ your trying to pimp behind the bar.
    I have always wanted to support the local industry and it’s initiatives… but you seem more inclined to promote yourself and your mates then your business.
    Out of all my mates in Brisbane, not ONE of us have ever looked at hitting the manabar to meet you… just drink and be merry.

    Good to see one of your drinking buddies got you a newspiece online to expose yourself… and not your business.

    Wh0re Journalism + Self indulgent sweaty [email protected] guy = FAIL.

    • While I could type up a well crafted, thought out rebuttal to all of that, “u mad?” seems just far more appropriate.

      Did this article really offend you so badly, especially to the point where you had to belittle someone else? If so, I personally think you need to take a look at your priorities in life. If you don’t like the Mana Bar, Yug, ect, then don’t read the article. It’s this wonderful thing called free will. Even if this is just some lovely, elaborate, tug-at-the-heart-strings, underdog-fights-the-man-and-wins story in order to promote a business, so what? That’s smart, and promotional piece or not, it was a good read about some of the sheer crap you have to go through to open a business.

      Oh, and Yug is Guy backwards.

    • LOL Pete, chill out.
      It’s Manabar baby.
      I also have zero idea what a YUG is.
      And the b.o factor in Brisvegas Manabar rates very high on the stinky scale.
      Haven’t minded my experience there.
      In saying that though… I’d never take a chick there. [email protected]
      Freaks + Sausage fest = No s3xy times for Ashern.

    • “Guys… I’m sorry but this isn’t on.”
      – My apologies I didn’t mean to violate my parole. Wait, I mean, never mind.

      “ANOTHER piece on the Manabar?”
      – You make it sound like we write about them all the time! (We don’t)

      “But is it news worthy?”
      – The only gaming bar in the world gets set up in Australia… I would say this is pretty newsworthy for an Australian gaming site!

      “I NEVER see Kotaku covering these guys supporting thier events…”
      – Umm… you just said “ANOTHER piece…” earlier, indicating that we cover them too often. :-/ Anyway, here’s our previous coverage of both the Brisbane and Melbourne launch.

      As for why we’re never at their events, we’re based in Sydney — it’s difficult to justify a trip interstate to attend an event at a bar.

      “How’s the community Yug? Detail some events? hows the business looking? you need any investors? Planning to bring it to other states? Had anyone famous in the bar? Whats the most amazing thing to happen so far? hows Melbourne Going?”
      – We wrote a very different kind of story — it may not have answered these particular questions, but it answered a lot of other questions. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to approach covering the Mana Bar.

      “This is LESS about the Manabar and MORE about Yug… WTF is a YUG anyway?!!!.”
      – Actually, I think that learning about the founder and origins of the bar is far more insightful than listing the bar.. err.. specs? Also, YUG is ‘GUY’ spelled backwards. The founder’s name is Guy Blomberg. It’s his handle. Lots of people go by their handles! People like Yahtzee and Junglist etc.

      “Why throw this self indulgent, poorely crafted tripe into the mix. Slow news year?”
      – It is a shame you feel this way about Mark’s story.

      “Wh0re Journalism + Self indulgent sweaty [email protected] guy = FAIL.”
      – You are not being very nice.

      • Loved the article. I went to the Brisbane one. It was alright, not really my thing.

        Question: this place keeps getting referred to as the first (and only) gaming bar in the world, but I can never work out what that means. I’ve been to a bar in Dunedin, NZ, that was filled with consoles and PC’s well before this – it was basically a LAN with a bar. I’ve never been able to work out why it isn’t the first (assuming there wasn’t one before that) gaming bar – it certainly meets my understanding of the term. And surely there must be somewhere in Japan that did this a long time ago, unless arcade machines don’t count? I can accept that, but the one in Dunedin should still should because it had a crapload of consoles as well. It served beer though. So it’s not like Mana bar which I think could claim to be the first gaming cocktail bar.

        • Actually – I looked it up. Place is called GamerzClub. It opened in January 2010, however, it may technically be a club as it has memberships. You can also play pool there according to the site (I don’t remember that at all).

          However, RvB in Auckland opened in 2007. It is definitely a gaming bar – though they refer to it as interactive entertainment. In fact, the only real distinction I can see between this concept and mana bar is that you can also buy games from there (probably an artifact of looser RSA laws in NZ) and that you can play poker. Seriously, am I missing something here? What makes mana bar the first?

        • I think the ‘first gaming bar’ in the world thing is based on the idea that it’s a bar first and foremost — it’s not an internet cafe or a location for LAN, and it’s not an arcade that just so happens to also serve drinks. It’s designed from the ground up with the bar specifications in mind and then the gaming element gets worked in.

          But I am not Dr. Video Game Bar so you will have to ask Yug or someone more knowledgeable of bars.

          • It’s the first videogame cocktail bar officially, but Tracey has the gist of it.

            The venue was designed to be accessable to a general audience while still being credible to the more hardcore gamer crowd – the setup was unique in that it wasn’t a LAN with drinks, or a Cyberlounge where you pay.

            And we looked, we really looked, to see if there was anything else like this out there. There wasn’t.

          • Cheers Yug + Tracey – I was mostly just curious. I haven’t been to RvB, but mana bar is certainly more ‘bar’ than GamerzClub.

          • There’s a ton of gaming bars (bars first with a gaming theme) floating around Japan and the rest of the pacific rim. Not that I’m hating on the Mana Bar, but yeah, not exactly world first. That said, all the best to Yug, Yahtzee and the others. Good to see people pushing on and making a go of things.

    • What a terrible comment. It seems like you’re more interested in a Reddit AMA with Yug than a journalistis piece on the bar. This piece never pretended to be anything other than what it was: A story about how three (eventually 4) friends who knew nothing about hospitality built the world’s first video gaming bar from the ground up. Successfully.

      Also, the idea of mispelling ‘poorly’ when trying to insult the author’s prowess is just so perfectly ironic. I’m sure Mark apologises for creating an article that wasn’t catered to you alone, Sir Wensley. I for one found it quite entertaining, and it made me long for one of these to exist in Sydney. Kudos Mark.

    • Hmmm …

      I think you missed the point of the article Peter – it’s about the creation of the bar, the story behind the lead up to it. I’d like to thing by going into more detail than I’ve ever done before, people can get a bit of an insight into what went on behind the scenes – both good and bad.

      I would like to think you don’t go to the Mana Bar to meet me, I live in Sydney now, but I’m glad to hear you enjoy going there. Maybe re-read this article to get an appreciation of what we went through so you actually have a videogame cocktail bar where you can ‘drink and be merry’ 🙂

      • While you’re here Yug, you wouldn’t happen to know if there’s any similar plans for a Perth based Mana Bar? While there are plenty of bars in Northbridge, there’s nothing even similar to what Brisbane and Melbourne have. It would certainly class up the place!

        • We have looked very closely at pretty much every Australian capital city since we decided to expand outside of Brisbane, but we’re not going to be announcing anything until we’re 100% certain.

    • Pete, relax mate.
      Team Kotaku AU just wanted some insite into the history of the bar.
      I can assure you it’s not about the co-owners and I, it’s about the business and experiences we’ve created together.
      I’ve spent a long time in the industry and wanted to give something back to the community thats given me so much! And hey… I love to party 😉

  • Been, and a bit gimmicky for my tastes, the drinks aren’t cheap and it’s a little small for my tastes. For me, a bar I’d frequent would need to have familiar faces, cheap beers, a place to sit down and not have to shout over each other (basically the Cheers bar).

    At this point, Mana Bar is something that’s great to visit but I won’t go again unless there’s an event. Ditto with people I’d brought to the place, who don’t ‘get’ games, they’re not coming back. It’s not a place I can see having regulars. I can still do all these things by hosting a party at campus (USYD’s Sutekh/IT societies does something like this every week) or just bringing over a bunch of mates and break open a case of beers.

  • Jesus! What an epic read!! I loved this story! Thanks very much Mark for putting together an awesome piece which made me feel like I was right there with the guys during a tumultuous opening. And to Tracey for . . . editing? Or fighting the trolls? My 2 cents in response to some of the negative criticism up top: I, for one, enjoy these big feature pieces sometimes, especially centering around the human and personal side of whatever it is you’re covering. Keep up the good work Mark . . . and Tracey =)

  • Great article Mark! I really felt the highs and lows of it. I got a little tickle from Shay’s bewildered statement, “I don’t understand”.

    It has been a while since I’ve been, I’m not a huge drinker but I do enjoy their cocktails, they’re arguably the best tasting and without a doubt the best named cocktails I’ve ever come across. Would love to go to one of the trivia nights.

  • interesting read….I’d heard from the escapist and Yahtzee about the bar before but I had no idea how it came to be or of any of the hurdles that came before the opening….I kinda want to go to Australia and stop at the bar myself now…to bad I live on the other side of the world in the US X(

  • I tried to go in to the one in Melbourne, but my friends didn’t want to go in, so it was scary/sad going in as a loner. Hoping to bring my bf sometime and indulge in some of those cocktails!

  • I was at that launch. I now live in Japan, but every time I come back and visit Aus I have to stop by for a brew and a game. Good shit guys. Yug, you’re a chiefy fellow.

    • Masha2932, really appreciate this kind of feedback and praise.
      I do this for the fans, for guys like you. Your awesome. Scotch is awesome.

  • That is a great story! I had not read about how it all came together before.
    A gaming bar is a really great way for people to meet other like-minded folk and have a great time so thanks for pursuing this idea even though friends and family labelled it stupid!
    Really looking forward to the Sydney Mana bar opening. Good luck with it and hopefully we will see it soon 🙂

  • Was in Fortitude Valley for a music conference in September last year, and was really looking forward to hitting up Mana Bar while I was there. They turned out to be located in the same building, which was both handy and across the road from my hotel.

    Tried most of the drinks across a few nights. Best cocktails I’ve ever had.

    Looking forward to visiting again!

  • I remember playing video games in bars in the 70s & 80s. Great to see the concept being revived and modernised for you younger folks. 🙂

  • To me, the mana bar was a place we went to launch a couple games but more so to drown our sorrows when our mates (and then us) got made redundant…

  • Took a trip from Newcastle to Brisbane specifically to go there. That place is too small to be called a bar. My garage is bigger. Really shitty experience. There was like 50 people in the place and it was shoulder to shoulder. I hate that place so much I’ll never go to Brisbane again just because it’s there.

  • I remember one fateful party at Yugs after a 48 hour where I lost convincingly to him at DDR and then decided to walk the two hours home from the valley. I exclusively blame the exhaustion– Not the scotch.

    Always the man to pull off the ultimate geek party location ;). Keep it up.

    • Ash, you fought with DDR honour 🙂
      But hey, no one can keep up the party like the yugstar.
      Miss those days brother. Stay frosty out there, thanks for the awesome memory.

      Ash you can now follow my current memories : http://www.yugstar.com

  • The manager STINKS , not worth your time or money . Was dead when we went , 4 guys and 4 girls looking to drink and play games , the staff.didn’t want to help us out atvall . Terrible bar

  • Hey everyone, just want to call out to all of the fans backing our play!
    And to the haters… u gunna hate, but come on in! lets see if a vodka skywardchocmallowsword doesn’t change you mind!
    It’s been an amazing if not harrowing couple of years!
    Couldn’t have happened without all of you 🙂
    Anytime your in town, either Bvegas styles or tearing it up in Mhood, plaese come and do a lvl7 bomberman slammer with the team!

    The Yugstar lives to party and I want all of you to hit the dance floor wit’ me! :p

    Been along weekend guys…. Monday… it’s the day of the week I need to recover from the weekend!
    Peace out and follow me on: http://www.yugstar.com
    Where real gamers come to party!

    • While these posts are entertaining, is there any way to posibly seperate posts made by me – the actual Yug – and my apparent NegaYug making these other posts?

  • I went to a few of Yug’s parties and I even gave him a few of my reviews for Australian Gamer back in the day. Sadly, I didn’t get past the muster, though PALGN groomed me for a while. I remember Yug’s house being like gamers paradise – he was so giving and generous. And he knew that gamers were an honest bunch – there were heaps of games everywhere and anyone could have nicked stuff – but as far as I know, it never happened. His ball pits and smoke machines were fun, and I still love the time I played Wii Sports on a projector on the side of a building. The people there were definitely enjoying themselves and I’ve since had similar parties. The Mana Bar makes sense, and it really is a wonderful celebration of gaming culture. The cocktails are a lot of fun, and there is a great selection of games to play. You’ll be surprised what you’ll find in Mana Bar, I’ve met some game celebreties, developers, some cool cosplay people, and just about everything in between. And I’ve even played some games well before release. I played The Darkness 2 in July last year, and that just released (it was due to release much earlier, and it was fun, but it was a good thing they delayed it for more work). I frequent the Mana Bar in Melbourne now, and Im always happy I go. If you haven’t tried it, give it a whirl. It’s become one of my favourite bars and favourite haunts whenever I go to Melbourne.

  • Great article, loved reading about the story behind the place. EVEN THOUGH I COMPLETELY FORGOT ABOUT THEM WHEN I WAS IN MELBOURNE A MONTH OR TWO BACK. Actually wait no, I think my friends did mention it and I went past there apparently, but at a time when it was closed.

    Never having visited but having attended all Insert Coins events so far, I’m a big fan of the concept. When it works, it’s fantastic – even though IC seems to be still trying to find its feet at this stage.

  • This is bad, those people are bad, their establishment is bad.
    Why are they all pulling smarmy faces, or are their faces just like that all the time?

  • I’d be okay with this if it wasn’t for the fact that Battle N Brew in Marietta, Georgia has been a videogame bar for almost seven years. I don’t understand how this could be the first video game bar, by that reasoning, unless they also somehow invented time travel.

  • What a great story and to think this unfolded on our door step. I have never been to The Mana Bar and I have never heard of The Mana Bar until now but now that I have I wont forget it and hope to get there one day. I think it is guys like you with what seemed like a crazy idea go out there make it happen change your world and impact everyone elses world is bloody fantastic bloody inspirational !!

  • People going out of their way to put this story down strike me as simply being jealous of their hard-earned success.

    Whether the whole ‘experience’ offered at their bars is your cup O tea or not (I’m personally neutral on it all), these chaps provide an inspiring story. Go Australia.

  • If you guys ever want to set up in Perth would be great. I have contacts with liquor licensing so would ideally try and make it a breeze. Plus, y’know, it would actually give me a bar that I wouldn’t feel a 100% out of place in.

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