The Mana Bar Is Closing Its Doors

We've just learned that The Mana Bar in Brisbane, the world's first video game themed cocktail bar, will be closing its doors on May 24.

This follows the closure of The Mana Bar in Melbourne, which shut its doors in August 2014.

The Mana Bar really was a pretty special concept. We wrote about its launch here, and it really was a cool moment for the local scene: an idea that went global.

Guy Blomberg — who founded the bar alongside Pras Moorthy, Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw and Shay Leighton — had this to say.

The Mana Bar was such a wild concept, and I think where it really succeeded was in breaking down the stigma that the only people that play video games are stereotypical pasty white nerds in their parents basement. It really did become a great community space, and I hope the lasting (probably slightly drunken) memories people will have are of the friendships formed through it.
It also brought some international attention to Australia and the gaming scene over here, which led to other video game bar venues opening up all around the world. The Mana Bar may have closed, but the concept lives on, and if nothing else I'm pround of that legacy.

Over the last year, The Mana Bar was being run by Cormac Moore, who we're currently trying to get a hold of. We'll update the story when we hear back.

It's a shame to see it go, but The Mana Bar had a great run, particularly in Brisbane and that's testament to the enthusiasm of its creators and the hard work of those who kept it going.


Comments

    Nooooooooooo!!!

      (I probably should have visited more than once!)

        I only visited once too, but to be fair I've only been in Brisbane once while it has been open :)

        It was a good idea that I found appealing in theory, but wasn't particularly engaging in practice. It felt like I was drinking expensive beer in a small room, and there were some games around I could've played if I wanted to but I didn't want to, because, well, that's what was happening!

          Yeah, I'm not a very successful gamer while drinking. I get too chatty or just sleepy, either way I can't concentrate.

          I played some of the new killler instinct & an early PS4 shooter (killzone?) & was disappointed by both.

          The trivia night was alright.

          Unfortunately, the Mana Bar just didn't really work. Popping it in a shoebox in Fortitude Valley really limited what they could do with the space and almost definitely meant their bar options couldn't be reasonable.

          On the plus side, they did prove that there's a market for this sort of thing and places are popping up everywhere now. Just down the road from me, a local board game store has run a Kickstarter to open a bar next door and there's an eSports bar in the middle of Canberra.

          The Mana Bar lasting as long as it did is incredibly impressive.

            We have Spawn Point in Sydney, same principle, possibly smaller shoe box. It's running well though.

              It feels bigger, possibly because it's spread out a bit more, and there is the area at the back where there is space for low tables.

              I walk past it every day to work and I swear it looks like it died ages ago, cause all there is to show for it is just a single sign in a very dusty 'on-the-ground' window

              There's several that have sprung up in the place of Mana Bar in Melbourne too. I've not visited any of them, but word is Forgotten Worlds and Beta Bar are good while Bartronica is less so.

              I can however vouch for Alchemists Refuge - A board gamer's bar in the CBD and for my money a better idea for a bar than a video game one.

              Last edited 20/05/15 10:32 pm

    Not sure if I'm sad or not. The concept is good, the venue is not and the cocktails weren't great and were pricey

      Totally agree, the venue was horrible. The photos online make it look like it is a huge area but really its just a small room.

      My idea for a bar like this would have been a bigger location which had a few small "Stages" where there are big screens / projectors for Mario Kart, Rockband and stuff like that where people could watch (and put on a fake rock performance).

      Several small consoles around the area and couches for those playing games.

      Good idea otherwise

      Last edited 20/05/15 10:49 am

    MrsBS enjoyed the sweet drinks the few times we went. Venue size was always an issue. I always felt boxed in there.

    Shame, I never got to visit one since they never expanded to Sydney.

    I'm not surprised it wasn't sustainable though. People liked the idea but never really seemed to enjoy actually going there.

      Hit up Spawn Point in Sydney. Pretty much the same thing

    I've been there a few times and it was a mixed bag. On ordinary nights it was a bit meh, but the event nights were great. When Yahtzee ran the trivia nights the place was packed solid, and good fun was had by all. It's a sad thing to see it go, but I suspect it's just not paying the bills.

    Last edited 20/05/15 2:24 pm

      Something that always bugged me about the Mana bar was the lack of arcade machines. While it's true the venue wasn't suited to it, it still felt empty without them.

      Oh, and how about that toilet graffiti?? Good times. :)

    Ah, the Mana Bar.
    I've always been a fan of what they set out to do.

    We went there during their opening weeks on a Sunday afternoon, the barman welcomed us in, showed us around and it was all very friendly and welcoming. Plus, bouncers in cosplay!
    Ran into Yug outside one time and he happily took the time to have a chat about what they were doing and what they were planning for the future (Melbourne) - no high and mighty attitudes, just a very down to earth and open chat. I still appreciate that.

    All things move on and conclude some day. Well done for everything they achieved.

      Yug is a pretty cool guy and doesn't afraid of anything.

    I never went to the Brisbane Mana Bar, but I did go to the Melbourne one a number of times and didn't like the venue or the fancy expensive drinks.
    Thankfully after it closed Beta Bar could be opened and that's a much nicer place. Lots of board games and video games and nice beers as well as fancier drinks, just a better experience overall that may never had existed if Mana Bar hadn't happened beforehand.

      I was the same for the Melbourne Mana Bar. Great atmosphere, amazing staff (especially Skardis and Bonnie) and very friendly patrons... But the drink prices were way too high, even for the area that the bar was located in.

        I went to the BioShock thing and wasn't too disappointed with the drink prices. I was paying $9.50 for a bourbon and coke I think it cost me like $50 for three doubles. For a bar in the middle of Melbourne on a Saturday night that's not abnormal. They had three or four people working the bar, someone running around and someone working the door. Not to mention the six (?) fully equipped TV/console/sofa setups.
        They could have got away with less but they spent the extra to ensure that for most of the night the service was uninterrupted. That's always going to show up in drink prices.

          $9.50 for a standard spirit and mixer is ridiculous.

    On my second visit (or attempt), I was refused entry because I had a pair of cargo shorts on and not long pants.... on a friday afternoon. I was planning on bringing 4 newbies there to spend dollars on drinks. After that, we never bothered to go back again.

    I went in the first month it opened and it was fantastic. Lots of people, great vibe but just too small. I went a few months later and things were dying off. I went again a bit over a month ago and tried to have a chat to the bar staff and their friends and they were very closed off. Not great for a quiet night where good bar staff can at least make the few patrons there have a good night. Instead I had my one drink and left.

    If a similar thing started again with a bigger venue, more focus on broadcasting eSports and having regular events it would work better. Plus their drinks are a bit too expensive. They did have a JD slushie machine in the beginning which was awesome too.

    Sad that it went into such decline. I loved the concept

      Would be nice if those of us that don't drink weren't paying the same kind of prices.

    Honestly, I disliked the Mama bar, mainly due to location and size. I feel that the concept would be better suited to a pub style place than a bar.

      I think you were going to the wrong bar mate!

    Spawn Point is probably next to go. It's okay to have one drink at but it's overpriced and isn't invested enough in atmosphere to be worth staying for a long time.

    Obviously the games are fun, but if a gaming bar was just about getting drunk and playing video games with my friends I could stay home.

      I disagree - there isn't much more they can do with the space they have in terms of atmosphere. They screen a bunch of esports on the projector, run regular gaming competitions, and generally just have a better vibe than Mana Bar did (granted, I hadn't been to Mana Bar in a couple of years, but still). Hell, I even got them to open at 12pm to screen the Dota 2 DAC finals just by asking on Facebook.

      Also, the drinks aren't that expensive for a downtown Sydney bar - compare it to Barber Shop or Baxters across the road and they're downright reasonable.

      EDIT: I also forgot the mention, the way the lockout laws are in the city now, most small bars are more 'have a couple of drinks and move on' than 'dig in for a long night' style venues, since they all have to shut by midnight.

      Last edited 20/05/15 12:05 pm

        That's the thing though, with Baxter, Barbershop and Lobo ridiculously close the competition is fierce. Obviously they're part of a different scene but they're still great places to drink no matter who you are.

        They haven't completely neglected atmosphere, no. But if you look at the places I've mentioned they have paid attention to every minute aspect of the venue, Spawn Point definitely hasn't.

    A little while ago I had to travel to Brisbane regularly for work, and really enjoyed visiting Mana Bar. The best night I had there was actually a really quiet one. It was a Tuesday night, I was there by myself and I happily sat and played Mario Kart and drank some beer while the staff played Warhammer. Hardly anyone else came in. It was much nicer than sitting by myself in my hotel room.

    Never went. Tried twice, but was blocked for wearing shorts. First time I didn't really think anything of it because it was late and very busy. Second time, was the middle of summer in the afternoon and there were 3 people inside. That pissed me off. I wear shorts everywhere in summer.

      Same here, was in summer too, in QLD FFS! I think it was run poorly for reasons like that.
      Someone needs to try again, but do it properly.

        I think they need to put it somewhere like Toowong. Real estate is less of a premium so you can have a bigger venue, it's close enough to UQ to appeal to the uni kids, and there's great public transport so you can get to and from there (Citycat, Bus and train).

      Don't think I ever got refused for wearing t-shirt, shorts and thongs. This was also in the middle of Winter

    I was always kind of disappointed that I never took the time to check out the Melbourne Mana Bar, I only lived about 30 minutes away. Such is life, I guess.

    That's a shame - I had my 30th birthday party there a couple of years ago. I had a cosplay theme and asked my friends to dress up as their favourite characters (I do have a few friends that I did drama with, but the majority of them probably wouldn't normally be into cosplay). My favourite costume was a friend I've known since grade one who dressed as Manny from Grim Fandango. A family friend and her husband went to a costume store and rented out the most amazing Captain America costume. I spent the night drinking the brightly coloured drinks and raving about how I wanted to start a D&D group, and then a couple of months later I reached out to those who had shown interest and starting playing D&D for the first time since high school. The guys at the bar were amazingly welcoming and friendly, and organised food for us. We never even used up the whole bar tab, which was surprising. Thank, Mana Bar, for the memories. :-(

    damn i am glad i got the chance to visit once :) wish i could have taken my girlfriend there. But there is a saving grace for Sydney siders. Don't forget that we have Spawn Point small bar on Clarence street :) its an awesome bar definitely my fave place in Sydney.

    If anyone's ever in Osaka hit up a joint called "Space Station". Tiny bar, loaded to the roof with screens and retro consoles from the NES right through to PS4 and Wii U on a projector. Every retro game you could possibly want, a wall dedicated to additional controllers and multitaps, ¥500 for drinks (super reasonable) and it's packed night after night with gamers.
    They've also got a Rift, which is what drew me there, and my friend and I had a gigantic Bomberman war with two other randoms while my other friend speed-ran Sonic 2 on the Mega Drive for the first time in years.
    The owner was awesome and the bar tender tapped along with chip tunes all night while serving drinks, waxing lyrical about the games he grew up with, and life in Japan.
    Five star review on Trip Advisor for good reason - if you get in the door there's no conceivable way you could be disappointed. They know their market and cater to it brilliantly. A thoroughly excellent night.

      Will have to remember. Wish I'd known when I was in Osaka last.

        https://m.facebook.com/groups/GameBarSpaceStation/

    It's not surprising, it was good at first but lately the drinks seem to have gone downhill, the place reeked and everything was filthy.

    Have to make sure I get to Spawn Point small bar in Sydney sometime.

    the mana bar failed because of ignorance and huge egos. Melbourne failed before it began, no thanks to having to pay nearly 9 months worth of rent on a property in one of the inner-cities most popular drinking areas, thanks to a change of government mere days before they were sent approval (after being given all the verbal assurances one could hope for). Then after numerous suggestions of what can be done to 'save' it by both patrons and those close to the staff, they seem to be largely ignored by those in positions to actually do anything, while those that were left behind copped the brunt of vocal frustrations.

    There seemed to be a lot of managerial disasters in both locations, so I can only assume that both sites were infected with poor management. As for Cormac, well I'm sure he's a nice guy, but I wouldn't trust him to manage his way out of a wet paper bag.

    Managing a bar is hard work yo.

    From the comments here (I haven't been), it seems like, they got the theme (video game culture) right, but they got the bar bit wrong.

    I work in Berwick Street, no more than 150 metres away from the bar. Nondescript, only a tiny little sign on the window to indicate it was a bar - I'd walked past it several times going to the Pig N Whistle without even noticing. Not like all the other bars around the valley.

    Never open during the day and didnt seem that particular inviting to be honest. I always thought I should pop in one night, but several years later still haven't. Oh well.

    Had my engagement party there. Was a ball. My understanding for the limited size was that you have to pay licensing for sale of alcohol based on the size of the venue. Am sad to see it go, had a few good nights there. Was a long drive from the Gold coast to get up there, so it wasn't too common unfortunately. Would be lovely to believe that they are opening a niche - but i think the money just isn't there for that sort of venture. To pay for liquor licensing you have to sell a lot.. and it doesn't really fit the environment for gamers.

    It was new territory.
    I can attest for a fact that there are elements and unique difficulties to running a bar aimed at geeks and gamers that no other bar will ever have to face.

    Nobody knew the drinking/shopping/social habits of the Mana Bars audience going into it and it took years to learn the lessons as to why some things did work and why other things didn't.

    Sadly there are people opening new Gaming Bars now who haven't learned those lessons and may be doomed to face the same fate because of it.

    Meanwhile Beta Bar is working well and even expanding at the moment in Melbourne out of the rubble of Mana Melbourne.

    Damn. As an American...I really wanted to go to this bar.

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