The Melbourne Mana Bar Is Closing ‘For Good’

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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.

Comments

  • 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.

  • 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.

        • 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.

          • 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.

          • either/or
            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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

        • 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.

      • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • I have been living in Melbourne for over a year now. Had no idea this existed. I’m right in their target demographic to. Sad to only hear about it now!

  • All these people saying it was too hard to get to? It was on one of the busiest tram lines, close to two others, was on one of the biggest ‘night out’ strips in the greater CBD area. 90% of bars there are tiny, crowded and slightly over priced.

    What didnt work was the fact that it was in the wrong kind of area, in my opinion. Fitzroy’s buildings and atmosphere just clanked against the Mana Bar’s idea. Sorry to see it go, but I can understand why.

  • Hopefully this wont mean the Sydney one would possibly be a no go 🙁

    The one is Bris is good but needs a Sydney one, in a good location with abit more seating than the one in Bris.

    As everyone comments, needs more casual feel and sit down talk kinda zones.

  • I always used to like randomly dropping in there on a weekend, but venue issues aside I found that it kinda stagnated – the liquor licensing was never extended to 1am as I once heard they were considering – no food – no rotation of party games (seriously – the worst of the Mario Karts as a constant, no new XBLA games – Castle Crashers and Raskulls are fun and all… but no Spelunky? no Wrecked? no Bomberman? there wasn’t ongoing incentive to come in for the actual multiplayer gaming!)

  • From Mana Bar Melbourne’s facebook page, in reply to a question about leaving Melbourne forever.

    “Mana Bar Melbourne Don’t listen to Kotaku, they were mostly incorrect.”

    • That’s hilarious considering it was a direct quote from the manager.

      I’ve called them and they know that comment was out of line.

  • From FB

    ‘It’s with great sadness that we have to say that yes it’s true, it is currently planned that Mana Bar Melbourne will close late September
    Venue size and debilitating license restrictions has finally gotten the best of us, we simply couldn’t support ourselves on day traffic alone since as soon as everyone was in the bar and having fun we aggravatingly had to kick you all out at 11..
    Currently we’re looking at options for either continuing or at the very least finding a new home for our loyal amazing community who have been awesome since day one.
    In fact from the 27th to the 31st of August we’re having a Save Your Mana event where we’re encouraging people to come into the bar and have a beer, show your support for the bar and staff and help us try and find a new home for our community that we all love so much!
    We’re planning on having heaps of giveaways and specials so make sure to head on down during that week!

    Much love and respect,
    – Skai/Meg/Bonnie’

    Not leaving for good, in fact Skaidris actually says the Kotaku Article was ‘Mostly Incorrect’ Can we update this?

    • It’s curious to see this article being called ‘mostly incorrect’ when the only things that can be correct or incorrect are quotes and direct information from their GM.

  • Id been there a few times, but I think it was purely a location issue more than anything else. The drinks were decent and the concept was sound, but the Brisbane one is far better.

  • From what everyone is saying here, the place seemed pretty crap any way. Honestly, this kind of venue needs space. Bowling places have all started serving alcohol now to bring in more crowds, and it works for the most part, that is a huge space, and you can spend an entire night there, bowling, playing arcade games, laser tag, talking, whatever.

  • the one in Brisbane drew in big crowds when it opened but seems to’ve died off now so I’m surprised that one’s staying open too. It’s small and not somewhere you can stay all night and tbh the cocktails are pricey and not that great (important when you’re a cocktail bar). The novelty for me has worn off and it’s just easier to have friends round and have a few drinks instead. They need to have more events going on, gaming competitions and such otherwise the Brisbane bar will end up the same way given another year or two

  • They had a rocky opening which led to the neighbouring businesses complaining and limited their alcohol license to 11pm. Most of the time I’d be out with mates along Brunswick St was after 11, and most of the other bars shut at 12, 1, 2 or 3 variously. No other bar shuts at 11, so I think that severely damaged them.

  • Well that sucks. These things always open to great fanfare but after a while, a bar (or coffee shop, restaurant, etc) needs to be conveniently located, with not-too-obnoxious music and where people can sit down and have drinks in a comfy environment. Sure, the Aussie gaming community rallied around it, but sooner or later, people aren’t going to cosplay or wear their “GEEK” shirts just to their weekly haunt.

    • ‘have drinks in a comfy environment.’

      That is the problem – there was no couches, and it was uncomfortable 🙁 the problem simply was lack of space. Imagine a gaming/videogaming bar that was similar to Bimbo’s just up the road for example. Plenty of couches… allowing boardgaming, videogaming and space to simply chill.

  • I’m really sick of this “the world’s first video game cocktail bar” monicker.

    There was an entire chain of BarCODE licensed videogame arcades. They didn’t pander to gamers by making everything about videogames, including the drinks list, but they were around well before Manabar, they were cocktail bars, and they had a very decent selection of (massively overpriced) arcade cabinets.

  • @Egofreaky I totally agree with you. Constantly harping on and on about how Mana Bar was the first when it isn’t the case doesn’t make me want to go to the venue. On top of that, most comments regarding Mana Bar Melbourne have been generally unfavorable giving little to no incentive to go, even with the themed drinks.

    I don’t think the liquor license is enough to justify the poor turnout. Mana Bar Brisbane closes at 12am, Melbourne at 11pm. To say that one hour difference is what killed/is killing the Melbourne bar is far-fetched.

    In regard to this statement:

    Guy Blomberg: “I honestly don’t have much to do with Mana Bar anymore, PAX Aus takes up all of my time these days.”

    I find that a bit of a cop out. Guy would plug the hell out of Mana Bar and now that it’s failing, he’s distanced himself from what at one point was something he’d boast about as being the brains behind.

    Using PAX AUS as an excuse is even more ludicrous. I went to PAX and it was a sham of an event. If not for the ‘PAX’ name, people wouldn’t have had anything pleasant things to say. It was a shadow of its namesake. Jerry and Mike should be embarrassed at how the event turned out.

    The best thing about PAX AUS is if you were able to scalp tickets off to ignorant attendees, something I wish I had did instead.

    • “I don’t think the liquor license is enough to justify the poor turnout. Mana Bar Brisbane closes at 12am, Melbourne at 11pm. To say that one hour difference is what killed/is killing the Melbourne bar is far-fetched.”

      I have no idea what Mana Bar Brisbane’s business is like, but Melbourne’s was certainly being hamstrung by the 11pm closing time. So many times the bar would finally be full at 9pm, 10pm, sometimes even 11pm, and then they’d have to close. It really did make it hard.

  • Feeling a metric tone of hate in these comments ya’ll!

    Look, Pax is taking up time, FYI was completely miss quoted BTW.
    But not to the detriment of my time and passion for the community and the support it has shown to the Manabar.

    M-Bar VIC has been a complete success, unfortunately a series of challenging, scenarios have presented themselves that would affect any business gaming related or not.
    These are real people, real gamers putting their lively hood in your hands.
    All to celebrate our passion in an environment we can all enjoy.
    Show some respect, please!

    The Manabar party continues strong in Brisvegas.
    Your resident Slurms McKenzie himself will be back asap to bask in the good times 😉

    We were the 1st dedicated themed bar of our kind in the world @Egofreaky + @evilspyboy.
    Confirmed by our very own Kotaku here:
    http://www.kotaku.com.au/2012/04/a-brisbane-brew-the-mana-bar-story/

    A tone of business have come and go in the same style. But we did it 1st, loud and proud! and with the support of the community above all.

    Me and my team have created a brand we stand by, respect and above all recognize the communities need to paaaaartae!

    Speaking of which, any of my K’ peeps hitting Pax Prime?!!! Going to be Epic fo’ sho’!

    pics will be at yugstar.com, can’t wait to see you there! drop me a line!

    • That would be incorrect. “Barcode” was the first video game bar I know of, and I expect there was probably one before that I just dont know about.

  • I only went there once with some friends… There was this one guy who was hogging Deus Ex the entire time we were there. I won’t miss it, just one less place in Melbourne serving overpriced drinks when it comes down to it.

  • From where I see it, is not about the toilet or the size. May be the rent was too costly for them to afford in that location. Here are the reasons from my POV:
    -The most playable games for PS3 and 360 are not on all the time.
    -Lack of gaming events, trivia night dont count, they have got nothing to do with video games most of the time.
    -Guitar hero musics louder by the musics they put on, who likes to play without listening to the songs featured in it?
    -Drinks a bit mote, not in a happy gaming way, why do video game players like cocktail? Which statistic shows that?
    -What happened to happy hour for regular customers?
    -Lack of online marketing reaching adult gamers. There are so many EB games out there, but the video game bar that target the same demography can’t survive implies that.
    -We can’t rule out the fact that their contract ended and was refused of recontract for another year or so.
    -Some controllers dont work due to spewed drink over time. Gamers let down once, and always scare of suckie controller
    -The bar staff could have walk around asking people to buy drinks like they do in casino, affordable drinks hmmm
    Now is all over, manabar melbourne is no more. My fellow gamers, the battle is lost, but we have to play on.

    THere is a langame meetup group on meetup.com go check it out

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