“Come with me” your friend whispers. “You need to see something amazing.”
Tucked away in some invisible corner of a city, the journey to a hidden bar usually begins with those magic words. Like an answer to some urban spell, a laneway opens up to reveal a hidden society. A society that loves to laugh, chat, drink and dance away from the rabble that marches up and down the main streets in pursuit of the daily grind.
Here in Melbourne, hidden bars have reached near art-form status. The grid-like layout of Melbourne’s CBD is packed full of secret laneways, nooks and crannies ripe for an enterprising owner to set up a tiny bar – the more hidden away, the better. One might think these bars would struggle to find an audience with so little visible imprint on the city.
And yet… people flock to them. Not in huge crowds of course. In ones, in twos, in little groups.
But why? What brings people past the rubbish bins, over the wet cobblestones, down the darkest of industrial looking alleyways in the hopes of finding such a hidden bar?
For a start… why not?
1. It’s More Personal
Anyone can duck into a Starbucks for a drink, and people do. A whole lot of them. For those of us that love to have a quiet face-to-face, it’s not so easy when you’re rubbing shoulders with 40 other people! One of the great assets a hidden bar has is an escape from that, with smaller, more cosy feeling seating spaces. Better yet – without the need to cater to everyone, a hidden bar is more free to express itself in more creative ways.
2. It’s An Adventure
The truly creative hidden bars go all out in preserving that ‘hidden’ aura. Whether it’s hiding a false door where Google Maps would lead you, or installing a staircase behind a secret bookcase, stepping into a hidden bar is like stepping into another world, after leaving the old one behind in the cold alley outside.
3. The Drinks are Better
This may sound like a hot take, but with fewer customers, the drinks really need to keep people coming back. Only the best cocktails survive in hidden bars, and who benefits from that hard work? You!
Where to start?
Fall from Grace
The Croft Institute