The Melbourne Mana Bar Is Closing 'For Good'

We've just heard word that Melbourne's Mana Bar will be closing in September and that The Mana Bar will be moving out of Victoria for good.

The Mana Bar premises on Brunswick St went up for lease today.

"We're closing the Melbourne bar in September, for various reasons, which we're not ready to talk about yet." said Meghan Betteridge, the General Manager at The Mana Bar in Melbourne.

"There weren't enough people coming into the bar, we ran out of options."

According to Meghan there were no plans to open another bar in Melbourne, and they were moving out of the city "for good". The Mana Bar in Brisbane will remain open.

Guy Blomberg, one of the three founders of The Mana Bar provided us with the following statement.

"I honestly don't have much to do with Mana Bar anymore, PAX Aus takes up all of my time these days."

The Mana Bar in Brisbane was the world's first video game cocktail bar when it launched and was successful enough that plans were made to expand across Australia. Melbourne was supposed to be the first part of that expansion, with a Sydney franchise to follow. We'll be sad to see the Melbourne bar go.


    That's really disappointing. I went in there for PAX, and it seemed to be doing really well. :(

      I went there last year when on holidays and even on a saturday it was dead as. Disappointing, but not at all suprising

        Lets be honest... gamers aren't exactly the most bar loving bunch. It's kinda a flawed business model when your target market's stereotype is antisocial cave dweller.

    Disappointing, but not entirely surprising to be honest. Keeping the place full during the week especially always seemed to be a difficult task.

    I haven't been to the one in melbourne ... but the brisbane one was tiny and loud. It did have pretty awesome graffiti leading to the toilets though. Still sucks to see it go, I guess

    That's sad to hear.
    Problem was it was an absolute pain to get to, and then it'd either be deserted or there would be a lineup and time limit.

    Here's hoping the Brisbane one keeps going strong.

      I don't think it's fair to say it was a pain to get to. Fitzroy is a hot bed for bars and it's a very densely populated area, about 5 mins from the CBD.

    Hope we get to see a Sydney one, if they pick a good location it could fare very well.

    Haven't been to a mana bar yet...tried to when I was in Brisvegas, but it was shut.

    Last edited 05/08/13 12:00 pm

    I don't think I'd even realised they had opened one in Melbourne and as a Kotaku reader I'm probably right in the target market! Got to suspect their marketing left something to be desired.

    I went there once a few weeks after it opened. Waited about 30 min to get in.
    Once inside found out that it was smaller than my living room. Good luck ever getting next to a controller, the drinks were pretty average (tried a few of the cocktails) and the prices were above average.
    I guess the thing that got me the most was the lack of space and lack of seating. There were a few stools around the TVs but no tables, no couches... the toilets were a tiny wooden outhouse...
    It just wasn't an inviting place.
    I'm happy I went once, but I have never had the urge to go back.

    I feel like it would have been more successful if it was a gaming venue that served alcohol instead of a bar that had a few screens and consoles.... if that makes sense.

      The big top from PAX with a bar... I'd never go home!

        I think we might have to band together to make this a reality.

          I was going to add my dream to my comment but decided not to.

          I think it all centres around "Gaming with Alcohol instead of Alcohol with Gaming". Be a venue first and a bar second.
          I'd imagine a place more like your local friendly game shop with tables to play war games, card games, somewhere to bring laptops and or PCs to LAN, a lounge to watch movies or anime on a projector, some couches with TVs and consoles (a mini living room if you like) and then just happen to also have a bar with alcohol.

          This way you cater to a large section of gamers, and you can run heaps more events, do things during the day, during school holidays etc... perhaps even have under age areas where there wouldn't be alcohol or R rated video games.

          I never found mana bar to really cater to the correct crowd. It has to be somewhere for gamers to go and socialise/game rather than trying to be a nightclub with consoles.

          Last edited 05/08/13 2:10 pm

            I wasn't exactly serious, but yes, if I ever considered doing something like this it would be a venue that happened to serve booze, not a bar that happened to have games.

            I've been to the Mana Bar in Brisbane a few times. Trivia nights are neat but the rest of the time, it's really just another place to buy drinks and you can play games if you're in the mood for whatever is on offer.

            I was with you till you started talking about having tables for wargames. Honestly, most places that sell war games products normally sit in their shop with their mates on weekends and get pissed while playing games together anyway, so I think that niché is already covered. Your venue just sounds like a geeks dream garage.

            Just masses of consoles and arcade games with a bar serving normal, and video game themed drinks would be an awesome hit, I'd love to go there.

            Last edited 05/08/13 2:54 pm

              I based the comment around what I see at hobby shops that have war games or card tournaments. I've never seen a store like that serve or allow alcohol. If it's in a privately rented hall or something sure.
              I haven't really put much thought into this. It was just a random idea. Perhaps wargaming isn't casual enough to have in a bar/social environment, But some couches and tables for a laptop or card game could work,
              Think starbucks with alcohol instead of coffee and gamers instead of hipsters.

              Hey, I'd probably be up for frequenting a geek garage that served alcamohol. :)

            If they made it less of a bar, and more of a hangout, people wouldn't drink when they were there, and the place would make no money. If it were just an awesome hangout, it would need to charge entry, as people would go there and not drink.

            The problem with the place was that, from walking past, it looked like a dingy bar with nowhere to sit, and a few screens with games on them. Who is interested in that? If I want to play games and drink with friends, I can do that at home. If I'm out drinking, I'll just go to bars like normal people.

            Also, geeks and nerds can't drink. They have two Cruisers, and call it a big night.

              A cover charge would be okay. Or make it a $20 entry fee but gives you a $20 drinks voucher.

            This is such a cool idea. You could do cool events like 'Gaming/Anime Trivia' Nights, Geek Speed dating/singles nights, host the Barcraft events, or Retro Gaming nights. And have different events for different age brackets.

            The key of course would be finding a venue that's safe, easily accessible, and can hold a decent crowd.

        care to expand? I didn't go to PAX =(

          The Big Top was a pavilion filled with people playing board games (and there were classic and modern console areas but who cares about them?). There was a library of games to borrow from and tables aplenty full of people. Some people were inviting anyone and everyone to join them, others would latch onto a table if they saw someone struggling to grasp a game.

          It was this fantastic, open and friendly atmosphere.

          Also it was nice and warm compared to most of PAX.

            When the day was drawing out and I had done far more walking around/standing than I'd expected after a big night previous, I was really, really desperate for a place to take a load off. The Big Top was great for that. Beanbags! Me, I just dumped my overnight bag onto the ground and laid down on it to near-nap/rest my eyes. The place had the kind of vibe where that seemed perfectly OK.

            (Traveler pro-tip: Make sure you have a sports/duffel-style soft bag of some sort instead of or inside your hard luggage, which you can store clothes and a towel in. Store them at the top of your bag so you can use it as a make-shift pillow.)

            It also had food trucks. If you added a bar to The Big Top, what possible reason could you have to leave?

        I was astounded there were no bars at PAX.

        Me and a mate were seriously considering going out at night to the bottle shop buying a case of beer, putting them in our bags and selling them off for 5 bucks a bottle in the concerts at night. lol

          I was astounded there was pretty much no junk food at PAX. As in, junk snacks like chips / chocolates, not junk meals like burgers.

      Yeah, it was a terrible venue. Kudos to them for trying, but they couldn't get people through the door, which is strange because it's on Brunswick Street. What were the bar managers doing precisely? Everyone is giving them well-wishes but they don't seem to have done their job very well.

      Also, there was graffiti plastered all over the front door, and the place was the complete opposite of inviting.

      Great idea thrown down the gurgler by bad management.

    I always wanted to check it out, but they shut at a ridiculously early time for a bar (11pm?), so a night out always ended up being somewhere else.

      My suspicions would be that's a time limit imposed by their license, which also probably restricts how "large" the venue can be too.

      That was their other problem. They've been fighting with the council since day one. Very low maximum persons permitted inside and a very early ending liquor license.
      I think we'll eventually find out they were pretty much forced to close by powerful people who didn't want them on brunswick st.

      Although I never thought that was an overly good location of it anyway.

        Considering how tiny the place was, I'm not surprised they would have had a small max number of patrons at once.

        The Brisbane one closes at 12 which isn't overly late anyway. When I was in Brisbane I one time spoke to Guy and he said it was actually a decision they had made. They wanted to be seen as a cocktail venue, not a place for drunks to rock up at 3AM.

        Can't comment for Melbourne, but in Brisbane it didn't sound like they wanted to be open any later.

      They cited that reason here, yeah:

      And apparently they're going to make an attempt at a better venue, maybe.

    Aww, that's a shame :( Here's hoping they can expand the one is Brisbane as a result? :( Agree with @Dime_fan3 though, it could be a good idea in the right place in Sydney.

    Went there once, it closes at 11pm and it was really small. Didn't feel inclined to go back at all.

    I went there about 3 times, including on opening night. As much as I love gaming and I think it's a good idea, the bar just wasn't that good. It was tiny and cramped, with limited seats and very few tables. I think this would work better as a lounge, with a larger area and couches etc. Most gamers don't like to game standing up.

    Been there a few times. Drinks were a bit pricy, it is a very small space and gets cramped really quickly. Having 2 bad knees I need to sit and I could rarely do that at any point. The location was a bad choice though. Something in the city or just on the outside of the city would have seen it thrive more.

    However, they did do some awesome stuff. Trivia nights are fun as hell and I was at the speed dating event which was a lot of fun. It's a shame that such a great concept is done in Melbourne.

    As others have said, it was just too small and its out of the way. Fitzroy wasnt a good location, too annoying to get to for anything else but car.

    Drove past one sat night with a mate and it wasnt inviting. Looked incredibly small, dark and dingy. Very few people in there also

      Fitzroy has many great bars, particularly if you love live music (and accessible by trams).
      I think this was half the problem. I could go to a bar that's going to shut at 11pm, or I could stay in a bar that has 3 or 4 live bands playing late into the night.

    Went to go there over christmas and it was closed. I just feel that the location was too out of the way for most gamers, the premise was too small and the times they were open were weird (Closing at 11pm or over the summer holidays?)

    Was meant to go there next month for a mates bachelor party. Doesn't look like that's happening anymore.

      that would have been an *awesome* way to spend your last night out as a free man.......

    If the bar had more consoles, more space, cheaper alcohol, and lounges, I would have gone back.

    Aww, never got a chance to go. Tried to get my friends together to go when it first opened, but they didn't see the point in traveling an hour to Melbourne for one bar.

    ...then they all went and did that the following week anyways...

    I've been there a few times, and while the cocktails were great, it was basically deserted every time. It wasn't a great location for them, and the bar was so small it would be easy to tip from being too empty to uncomfortable and overcrowded.

    While I think the bar is fantastic, it's execution in Melbourne was flawed. I hope the Brisbane bar continues to be a success though, and that it can still open in new locations, and find success elsewhere.

    “I honestly don’t have much to do with Mana Bar anymore, PAX Aus takes up all of my time these days.”
    Are you serious?! What happened to the 'Guy' who sold me on his concept:

    I was there for the opening man. Can't believe it's going!

    Last time I was there it was unbelievably tiny and packed to the wall despite only having 5 attendees and two bar staff. It was also dark, dank, loud and sweaty. This is not exactly the kind of venue or experience I would recommend to other people, with or without video game paraphernalia.

    The bar business always seemed way to volatile to me, your joint is hyped at one point in a few months a ghost town; seems to be a recurring theme with Clubs.

    Sad, but I'm really not surprised. It was small, few consoles, nowhere to charge your handheld, and uncomfortable. Just not a great place to have a drink and play games.

    Although I didn't mind the brisbane one it is very small. This probably works against the brand on some level.

    As mentioned by others already, its a shame but really not surprising. The location wasn't great, and the venue was small, a lack of seating, a small range of drinks costing more than you are used to paying, and not a whole lot happening with the available games (the less said about the bathrooms the better).
    Remains a great concept, the execution of it here just didn't work out.

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