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Does Canberra lack nightlife venues?

By Lisa Martin - 5 February 2015 23

nightclub-stock-drinking-friends

One of my recent articles attracted a few comments on the variety of nightlife venues in Canberra. This might be a controversial discussion to start, but everyone has a different experience of Canberra depending on their work, family, friends, lifestyle and interests. While the quantity of Canberra nightlife venues is adequate for many, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea – particularly those originating from major cities.

Given its population of less than half a million, Canberra obviously isn’t going to have masses of bars and nightclubs, but does that necessarily mean that young people (particularly young single professionals with no ties in Canberra) will increasingly ‘do their time’ in the capital and then move to a bigger city after a year or two looking to live somewhere more exciting? Or will they just flee to Sydney come 5pm on Friday and spend the weekend away from Canberra?

My flatmate is from Wollongong and he spends every second weekend away from Canberra. He definitely doesn’t hang around on public holidays. I know quite a few people from Sydney or surrounds who rarely spend their weekends in Canberra, preferring to do the Friday afternoon drive up the Hume Highway.

But as a single person, I’d have to say there probably isn’t enough variety and not enough happening to keep me entertained and interested in the long term. Events such as the Multicultural Festival, Floriade and Enlighten are worth a visit, but are these types of events diverse enough to attract Canberra residents year after year?

As for a night out, it’s common to end up in the same places weekend after weekend. Yes, there are new venues such as Molly, Lucky’s and Hopscotch that are increasingly filling the nightlife scene and seem to be very popular, but I’m not sure that there are enough to satisfy Canberra’s young people. As another person commented, the majority of newer places popping up are bars not nightclubs. Is there a need for more nightclubs in Canberra?

I try and mix my nights up between Braddon, Civic and Kingston for a few drinks, but I tend to revisit the same places a lot throughout the year. Living in the inner north, Braddon and Civic are convenient as I don’t need to take a taxi home, but every now and then I give Kingston a go too.

One reader commented that a lack of nightlife was becoming an increasingly valid reason for people to leave Canberra. I’d have to agree. After two years in Canberra, I’m pretty vocal in admitting that you have to really look for things to do in this city. It’s not like Sydney and Melbourne where there’s something happening every day of the week to cater for all tastes, budgets and schedules.

Many of my friends, a mix of Canberrans and interstate blow-ins, tell me Canberra also lacks the buoyant vibe of other Australian cities. Many times I’ve wandered through the central parts of Canberra and there’s been hardly anyone around.

On the other hand, a few locals have told me that they don’t have a compelling reason to leave Canberra even if they acknowledge that there isn’t a lot to do. Is the issue here really that people from other cities like myself expecting something like their cities and find themselves disappointed in what Canberra has to offer?

What’s Your opinion?


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23 Responses to
Does Canberra lack nightlife venues?
Ben_Dover 9:59 am 11 Feb 15

Ezy said :

Coming up in March… DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist!

Oh wow, a fine example of what I was saying, thanks for that!

DJ Shadow was big in 2004, (you know, 11 years ago,) since then, not so much.

At least you didn’t mention that Nirvana once played here, or Iron Maiden.

Ezy 9:03 am 11 Feb 15

Ben_Dover said :

farnarkler said :

Ben you’ve misunderstood me. I mean house party as in a party at someone’s house.

LOL!! 🙂 Yes, I know, I was having a giraffe.

Come on folks, name one Canberra “nightclub” which would hold it’s own anywhere else? name one “biog name” DJ who has played Canberra in the last 12 months?

Nope, thought not.

Coming up in March… DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist!

Ben_Dover 8:47 am 11 Feb 15

farnarkler said :

Ben you’ve misunderstood me. I mean house party as in a party at someone’s house.

LOL!! 🙂 Yes, I know, I was having a giraffe.

Come on folks, name one Canberra “nightclub” which would hold it’s own anywhere else? name one “biog name” DJ who has played Canberra in the last 12 months?

Nope, thought not.

fps_grandma 11:20 pm 10 Feb 15

Bennop said :

Can’t wait for this one to start (opens popcorn).

Mind you, if lack of nightclubs is a good enough reason to want to/leave Canberra, then you must be a pretty shallow person anyways.

*ducks*

Then you must be equally judgemental? Isn’t this why the world is full of segregation and hatred?
If the corn in your theoretical popcorn was cheap because it was harvested by poorly treated farmers wouldn’t you be the shallow one?

Evilomlap said :

I think the last thing Canberra needs is more nightclubs. But then again I don’t go to nightclubs anymore so I don’t really care either way. I think the problem with Canberra restaurants and bars given our population is that when a new one pops up, it’s the place to be until the novelty wears off, then it either establishes itself or stagnates until another one takes its place. The problem I’ve found personally with ‘things to do’ like the ones you have mentioned Floriade, Enlighten etc is that year after year they are basically the same so once I have been once I’m rarely inclined to go again.

An issue I have always had with Canberra’s night life is this – nothing but the nightclubs and 24 hour servos stays open after around 10pm. In cities like Melbourne or Sydney, which are far larger and have worse crime rates, I’ve never felt unsafe walking around the inner city even after midnight. That’s because there are still normal people walking around having coffee, late dinners, seeing movies, whatever. I have often felt unsafe walking around Canberra’s inner city late at night because seemingly the only people left walking around at that time are the morons who are too drunk to get into the nightclubs. Walking a date to her car in Melbourne we had a relaxing stroll and nice chat, as oblivious to other people as they were to us. Walking a date to her car in Canberra I have had to shield her from abuse, cop abuse myself from the steroid brigade who measure masculinity by bicep circumference, steer her around puddles of vomit and shake my head at the huge difference between Garema place during the day, and what it becomes after dark.

Canberra has a lot of diversity and a lot of things to do, until about 10pm, then your options become far more limited.

If nightclubs are not your thing why continue commenting about it?
First you talk about the worse crime rates in Melbourne then you immediately worry about the testosterone-overloaded neanderthals roaming Civic who are up to no good which isn’t a problem in Melbourne now?

JimboJones said :

Clubs are for singles. Once you’ve got a partner, night clubs are the most unappealing thing known to man. I agree that Canberra nightlife for the under 24’s is pretty poor but suits me just fine. I’m happy to go to a bar with mates. The presence of nightclubs usually results in late night fights and vomit on the streets the following morning. They also seem to make areas a lot shittier don’t you think? Think of areas in Sydney/Melbourne where the good clubs are – They’re usually a dump. Would you want to live in an apartment that was next to or very close to a popular night club? I’m no prude but I definitely wouldn’t. Most people would agree. In short, Canberra nightlife is crap for clubbers, its great for bar-hoppers though. I fall in to the latter group and think the lack of clubs is one of Canberra’s selling points.

What if you’re a straight or gay single person or couple who just wants to have fun at the Cube?

If fights outside nightclubs are a problem then perhaps you may consider living at one of the numerous outback towns instead such as Lightning Ridge which has bars rather than nightclubs?
Surely visting Queanbeyan in the evening won’t be an issue?

Holden Caulfield said :

I agree that Canberra doesn’t have a lot of choices when it comes to nightlife. But the reason for that is clear and mentioned by the OP; we’re a small city!

Canberra will never be able to match Melbourne and Sydney in this regard, so why complain about this all the time?

For the blow-ins who come and go as soon as they can, there must be something that attracted them to Canberra in the first place.

To answer the question posed in the title; no Canberra doesn’t lack nightlife venues. It may lack a variety of quality venues, but that can be explained by the simple fact we don’t have the population to support a huge number of options.

Rather than bemoan that a city of less than half a million cannot compete with cities with five or six times that population why not embrace the good things about Canberra and enjoy life?

It’s kind of boring to whinge about how Canberra sucks all the time. Much more boring than Canberra is alleged to be, that’s for sure!

Then we don’t need large supermarkets like Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, Costco or numerous dealerships from different manufacturers and instead we can just embrace local humble corner grocery stores with wooden walls and still use paper bags and only have Ford and Holden dealerships.
You’re surely happy with the latter?

Ryoma said :

I think the problem here comes down to expectations and the way people deal with change.

I came here some years ago as a graduate, but also as someone already in a relationship. Therefore, I wasn’t looking to go out clubbing as a way to meet people, but more as something to do occasionally.
By contrast, some of the other (yes, admittedly younger) graduates would head back to other places on every long weekend – and this was particularly true of those from Sydney. I really enjoy going to Sydney myself. It’s a great city, and, as noted, it’s a big city, with a lot more diversity on all sorts of measures. The same goes for Melbourne, many of our other capital cities, and more overseas.

However, if you are able to go out each weekend, and head for a different club, etc, then for a long time, you don’t need to face up to the idea that you are responsible for your own choices in life; and this includes learning more about who you are when left to your own devices.

In essence, moving here means taking the good with the bad. For those people who were forever headed somewhere else, not surprisingly, Canberra remained/s a clique-y, isolating place. It was hard to make friends, etc, etc, perhaps because it required the commitment to stay here and to get past the awkward stage. Putting down roots takes time, effort, a willingness to step out of one’s comfort zone, and maybe also to get involved. It’s a shift that moves from “the world is here to entertain me” to “how do I work with what we’ve got, and maybe work with others to do something cool”?

And don’t get me wrong – some people are already able to do that, and if they still decide that Canberra is not their scene, then that’s by all means fair enough. But expecting Canberra to be able to offer the same scale of things as Sydney or other much bigger cities do, across the board, is somewhere between unrealistic at best and wildly deluded at worst.

While adding hundreds of venues of the same type is indeed excessive the problem is that venues of a particular type which in this case is nightclubs are being subtracted away i.e. Meche and ICBM.

girl_about_town said :

Its unclear if you are commenting on nightlife in regards to nightclubs or things to do once the sun goes down. The nightclub scene was strong in Canberra in the 1990s and early 2000s but times and trends change. On most nights of the week there is live music at a number of different places in Canberra, theatre, workshops, trivia nights, fundraisers, movies and fantastic resturants.
Potentially a change in attitude may be the solution to the problem? Ever ventured to Transit Bar, ANU for gig, Smiths, Edgars Inn for the footy on a friday night, Kremlin bar for some yummy vodka cocktails, PJ Oriellys in Tuggers for Guinness and a game of pool, Suburban in Dickson for a meal and some people watching, Comedy Gig at the Irish Club in Weston/City Pub…………………………I could go on

You can be married to one and only one person in your lifetime or be married to multiple partners at the same or different time either with or without any of their partners’ permission.
Everyone has different attitudes in life.

farnarkler 6:42 pm 06 Feb 15

Ben you’ve misunderstood me. I mean house party as in a party at someone’s house.

girl_about_town 2:34 pm 06 Feb 15

Its unclear if you are commenting on nightlife in regards to nightclubs or things to do once the sun goes down. The nightclub scene was strong in Canberra in the 1990s and early 2000s but times and trends change. On most nights of the week there is live music at a number of different places in Canberra, theatre, workshops, trivia nights, fundraisers, movies and fantastic resturants.
Potentially a change in attitude may be the solution to the problem? Ever ventured to Transit Bar, ANU for gig, Smiths, Edgars Inn for the footy on a friday night, Kremlin bar for some yummy vodka cocktails, PJ Oriellys in Tuggers for Guinness and a game of pool, Suburban in Dickson for a meal and some people watching, Comedy Gig at the Irish Club in Weston/City Pub…………………………I could go on

Ben_Dover 11:48 am 06 Feb 15

farnarkler said :

You would be surprised how big the 30s-40s house party scene is here.

House is so 1990’s though, I still enjoy a bit of uplifting house, even in my 50’s.

You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of true clubs in Canberra, and on the fingers of one foot the decent ones.

In the city in the UK I used to go clubbing, which is smaller than Canberra, there were a dozen clubs, each with their own specialty, with one catering to the “over 30 yr old” clubbing scene exclusively. Clubs would compete to get big name DJ’s in, when was the last time a major new DJ played Canberra?

farnarkler 9:33 pm 05 Feb 15

If you’re over 35 then Canberra does lack decent venues. There are a lot of generation x people in Canberra who I think would like a nice place to party without having to put up with youngsters. You would be surprised how big the 30s-40s house party scene is here.

tooltime 7:51 pm 05 Feb 15

Bravo Ryoma, bravo…

Ryoma 3:25 pm 05 Feb 15

I think the problem here comes down to expectations and the way people deal with change.

I came here some years ago as a graduate, but also as someone already in a relationship. Therefore, I wasn’t looking to go out clubbing as a way to meet people, but more as something to do occasionally.
By contrast, some of the other (yes, admittedly younger) graduates would head back to other places on every long weekend – and this was particularly true of those from Sydney. I really enjoy going to Sydney myself. It’s a great city, and, as noted, it’s a big city, with a lot more diversity on all sorts of measures. The same goes for Melbourne, many of our other capital cities, and more overseas.

However, if you are able to go out each weekend, and head for a different club, etc, then for a long time, you don’t need to face up to the idea that you are responsible for your own choices in life; and this includes learning more about who you are when left to your own devices.

In essence, moving here means taking the good with the bad. For those people who were forever headed somewhere else, not surprisingly, Canberra remained/s a clique-y, isolating place. It was hard to make friends, etc, etc, perhaps because it required the commitment to stay here and to get past the awkward stage. Putting down roots takes time, effort, a willingness to step out of one’s comfort zone, and maybe also to get involved. It’s a shift that moves from “the world is here to entertain me” to “how do I work with what we’ve got, and maybe work with others to do something cool”?

And don’t get me wrong – some people are already able to do that, and if they still decide that Canberra is not their scene, then that’s by all means fair enough. But expecting Canberra to be able to offer the same scale of things as Sydney or other much bigger cities do, across the board, is somewhere between unrealistic at best and wildly deluded at worst.

tooltime 2:03 pm 05 Feb 15

Yeah maybe it does,

You’re young, single, and from a much bigger place than Canberra with more happening 24/7.

The nightclub scene is a reflection on a few things:The populations size, spending and social behaviour, demographics, regulation and planning laws and the ability of the venue owners to make a dollar. Don’t underestimate how critical that last point is…

Annandale & Newtown in Sydney are good examples of social change. Both undergone significant gentrification the last decade or two. Close to the CBD, both had a few pubs with bands playing live music 6 days a week. Not anymore. The 40 year olds,even older folks have all moved into big unit complexes, designer baby and “cute” dog….they want city conveniences too.

If you’re having a good time at the venues you repeatedly end up in, who cares? JimboJones will happily chaperone you around for a night – I look forward to the report…Queanbeyan can offer you Country Living, City Benefits…

Holden Caulfield 1:24 pm 05 Feb 15

I agree that Canberra doesn’t have a lot of choices when it comes to nightlife. But the reason for that is clear and mentioned by the OP; we’re a small city!

Canberra will never be able to match Melbourne and Sydney in this regard, so why complain about this all the time?

For the blow-ins who come and go as soon as they can, there must be something that attracted them to Canberra in the first place.

To answer the question posed in the title; no Canberra doesn’t lack nightlife venues. It may lack a variety of quality venues, but that can be explained by the simple fact we don’t have the population to support a huge number of options.

Rather than bemoan that a city of less than half a million cannot compete with cities with five or six times that population why not embrace the good things about Canberra and enjoy life?

It’s kind of boring to whinge about how Canberra sucks all the time. Much more boring than Canberra is alleged to be, that’s for sure!

JimboJones 1:16 pm 05 Feb 15

Clubs are for singles. Once you’ve got a partner, night clubs are the most unappealing thing known to man. I agree that Canberra nightlife for the under 24’s is pretty poor but suits me just fine. I’m happy to go to a bar with mates. The presence of nightclubs usually results in late night fights and vomit on the streets the following morning. They also seem to make areas a lot shittier don’t you think? Think of areas in Sydney/Melbourne where the good clubs are – They’re usually a dump. Would you want to live in an apartment that was next to or very close to a popular night club? I’m no prude but I definitely wouldn’t. Most people would agree. In short, Canberra nightlife is crap for clubbers, its great for bar-hoppers though. I fall in to the latter group and think the lack of clubs is one of Canberra’s selling points.

Evilomlap 1:16 pm 05 Feb 15

I think the last thing Canberra needs is more nightclubs. But then again I don’t go to nightclubs anymore so I don’t really care either way. I think the problem with Canberra restaurants and bars given our population is that when a new one pops up, it’s the place to be until the novelty wears off, then it either establishes itself or stagnates until another one takes its place. The problem I’ve found personally with ‘things to do’ like the ones you have mentioned Floriade, Enlighten etc is that year after year they are basically the same so once I have been once I’m rarely inclined to go again.

An issue I have always had with Canberra’s night life is this – nothing but the nightclubs and 24 hour servos stays open after around 10pm. In cities like Melbourne or Sydney, which are far larger and have worse crime rates, I’ve never felt unsafe walking around the inner city even after midnight. That’s because there are still normal people walking around having coffee, late dinners, seeing movies, whatever. I have often felt unsafe walking around Canberra’s inner city late at night because seemingly the only people left walking around at that time are the morons who are too drunk to get into the nightclubs. Walking a date to her car in Melbourne we had a relaxing stroll and nice chat, as oblivious to other people as they were to us. Walking a date to her car in Canberra I have had to shield her from abuse, cop abuse myself from the steroid brigade who measure masculinity by bicep circumference, steer her around puddles of vomit and shake my head at the huge difference between Garema place during the day, and what it becomes after dark.

Canberra has a lot of diversity and a lot of things to do, until about 10pm, then your options become far more limited.

Bennop 10:11 am 05 Feb 15

Can’t wait for this one to start (opens popcorn).

Mind you, if lack of nightclubs is a good enough reason to want to/leave Canberra, then you must be a pretty shallow person anyways.

*ducks*

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