A Raft Of New Geek And Gaming Bars Are Opening In Australia

Who said there's no market for getting people drunk while they play video games? Despite the fact that Mana Bar Melbourne has recently folded due to poor patronage, Australia is getting three new gaming bars in the next few months alone.

The concept of a gaming bar is simple. In the same way that a sports bar lets you have a few brews while watching a bank of screens featuring sporting matches, a gaming bar lets you get a buzz on while you rack up a few kills on the latest FPS shooter or play the latest RPG.

The concept came to Australia with the Mana Bar in Queensland's Fortitude Valley. (If you haven't acquainted yourself with the history of it, it's a great read.)

The Mana Bar eventually expanded to Melbourne in an enterprise that would eventually fail due to poor turnout numbers.

Despite the closure, however, there's still a core community of gamers who came out to Mana Bar Melbourne that the proprietors were keen to find a new home for.

Since then, a Pozible campaign for a new Melbourne bar has popped up, seeking $10,000 in funding to build "an open-source bar for geeks".

The project's creators are keen to stress that they have no connection to the Melbourne gaming bar formerly known as, but they want to embody the spirit of a bar built by geeks, for geeks.

The team consists of IT and hospitality types who are looking to start a hub for geek culture in Melbourne. They know the market is there, too thanks to the wild success of the now-annual PAX Australia show.

We know the Melbourne scene is there, and we know it's huge, PAX proves just this.
Now with such a huge community of Geeks, Nerds, Gamers and pop-culture fanatics doesn't it just make sense that there should be a centre for this community?
This is what we want to create. A place where people like us can go to hang out, have a drink, read a book, watch a movie or meet new friends.
We want to be the place you go to every week to play D&D, we want to be the place that you go and win awesome prizes for your amazing cosplay skills, we want to be the centre of E-sports not just in Melbourne, but all of Australia, and we want to be the place where you meet a huge group of like minded people and make a whole new circle of friends.
Lets face it... most bars suck for people like us. We sit there with loud obnoxious music blaring in our ears while keeping a watchful eye on the bogans at the next table just hoping they don't start a fight.
We want a bar for us. And not just some shoe box in a basement which sells cocktails and has a few consoles in the next room. We want to build the hub of Melbourne's geek community. A place you'll come to in the middle of the day just as much as the middle of the night.

The new Geek Bar (also known as Power Up) wants to be just that: a bar for geeks. The project founders identified that one of the main reasons that previous endeavours to make a space for nerds in Australia is that they focussed squarely on the narrow market of gamers. Geek Bar is all about gamers, but they want to broaden it so that the business has a steady flow of customers from all sorts of interest groups.

"Previous efforts have had the crucial flaw in that they were narrow focused, aka... just for gamers. Now we love gamers... we ARE gamers. But we're also Whovians, we're sci-fi fanatics, we're cosplayers, we're wargamers and card gamers, and we're e-sports nuts! Our venue will be focused on pop-culture as an entire sub-culture," writes Edmund Munday: the crowdfunding project's organiser.

Furthermore, Geek Bar has pledged to create an zero-discrimination venue, with an inclusive atmosphere for everyone from gamer girls through to the LGBTQI community, who have also recently expressed frustration about having a place to come together and bond over geek culture thanks to the overbearing gay-bashing culture prevalent in online gaming.

Pozible will be used to raise half the capital for the new bar, while the rest will come from private funding. The campaign closes in July.

Melbourne isn't the only market getting a new geek watering hole, however: Sydney is also on the cards for a new venue dedicated to geek and gaming sub-culture.

Entirely separate from Geek Bar's operation in Melbourne, Mana Bar-alumni are working on BetaBar in the Melbourne CBD.

The key selling point of the Beta Bar is to create a space not just for gamers, but for Australia's indie game developer community to come together and show off their wares to their target market.

The Beta Bar will also offer an indie development fund in order to give back to the indie community and help studios off the ground, as well as monthly networking events for the industry.

The only challenge right now for the Beta Bar (and presumably for the Geek Bar) is Melbourne's refusal to issue new liquor licenses.

Without that, the Beta Bar can't open:

"One thing’s for certain we’re not willing to compromise on our vision. Currently late Liquor Licenses are still not being issued for new bars in Melbourne and we will not set up anything half arsed," the creators wrote on Facebook.

Sydney is about to get its first gaming bar too: Spawn Point Small Bar is currently gearing up to throw open its doors to the gaming, drinking public.

A 60-person venue is set to be opened in the next three months on Clarence Street in Sydney. Spawn Point Small Bar is a little different to other gaming bars, however, considering that the primary focus is going to be on retro consoles when the doors open.

NES, SNES, N64, PS1, PS2, MegaDrive and MasterSystem consoles will all be there for use, with a few next-gen consoles coming later. The Spawn Point bar staff are even accepting ideas for new cocktails on Facebook.

Even the original Mana Bar in Brisbane is entering a new era, as original owner and founder Guy Blomberg moves on from the enterprise, passing the torch to new owner: the long-time manager of the Mana Bar who pledges big improvements.

The market may be down, but gaming bars are up, and ready to play.

Beer pong image via Shutterstock

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