Everybody loves a dive bar – cheap drinks, an unpretentious atmosphere, and a unique experience with equally unique individuals.
The only issue is that many great dive bars are relatively unknown, being passed over by some of the more ‘uptown’ drinking establishments that tend to take all the shine. Well, not any longer! We’ve chosen a range of our favourite dive bars in Melbourne – whether you’re after a good time with some friends or you just want to see a gig, we’ll tick all your dive bar boxes, and then some.
AC/DC Lane, Melbourne CBD
Founded in 1999, Cherry Bar has become a Melbourne rock ‘n’ roll venue staple, situated right in the middle of the CBD in the aptly named AC/DC Lane. Come here to get your grog and gigs, with plenty of live music acts every week playing until 11.30 and a DJ set playing even later into the night. Hell, this bar is so beloved that Noel Gallagher of Oasis tried to purchase it in 2002. Live a true rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle for a night and visit Cherry Bar for a wild night that you may (or may not) remember.
You’ll find most people who come to Cherry Bar drink beer and we recommend you do too, boasting a great range of beers on tap with plenty of Australian brews such as Coopers, VB or Cricketer’s Arms. If you feel like something a bit more tough, they have plenty of other options – whisky seems to be popular.
234A Russell St, Melbourne CBD
Considering dive bars originate from the United States, it’s only suitable that Heartbreaker has modeled its design after American-style dive bars and diners, giving it a neon-lit, retro look. Just as rustic and tough as its appearance is its soundtrack, with an old jukebox fitted out to include classic rock ‘n’ roll tracks from 1968-1980 from artists such as Lou Reed, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix.
A no-nonsense bar, Heartbreaker offers four classic cocktails – a Negroni, Manhattan, Old Fashion and Martini – and a small wine list consisting of just three house wines – red, white and sparkling (and they’re all Spanish, too!). However, they go beyond making up for it with their extensive whisky list, with roughly 60 labels of all the rye, rum, bourbon and whatever else takes your fancy available. There’s also a small beer range available that gets the job done.
There’s no strict dress code at Heartbreaker, but if you dress up in a crisp white tee and leather jacket you’ll be more than welcome here, considering that’s what most of the staff wears. If that’s not rock ‘n’ roll’, I don’t know what is.
The Old Bar
74-76 Johnston St, Fitzroy
For such a small bar, The Old Bar is larger-than-life, hosting many rock, punk and hardcore gigs seven-days-a-week as customers bustle in to see their favourite acts. Founded in 2001, The Old Bar has established itself within the Fitzroy community as an avid supporter of live music.
There is a much-needed lack of pretension at The Old Bar, with both the customers and the workers just being ordinary folk who want to hear some good tunes played extra loud. Ask any regular – it’s the laidback, unassuming vibe that keeps them coming back. So grab a pot, pick up a stool and enjoy the show.
317 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
If one bar truly captured Brunswick Street’s ethos, it’s Bar Open, with its warm, intimate interior that is covered in what appears to be a collage of differing artworks. Dim lights and comfy chairs and couches are littered around the venue for you to relax on as you drink your choice of poison. You’ll probably want to grab a beer here, but if you’re after wine, Bar Open also has a solid list of Australian and New Zealand wines. Feel free to stay for a long time, as Bar Open is open until 3am each night.
One of the main attractions of Bar Open is it’s live music, which is a mix of reggae, rock, soul, folk, jazz and grunge that is played by its rotating list of musical acts – both home-grown and from abroad. The watering hole of many Fitzroy natives, Bar Open is a gritty dive bar with real personality that many call their second home. Why not visit sometime?
303 High St, Northcote
Certainly one of the more curious venues along the main street in Northcote, Bar 303 is a cosy, bohemian sanctuary for many Australian musicians looking to perform – be it jazz, rock or folk. Located right next to the Northcote Social Club, Bar 303 is for those looking for a more personal and welcoming bar experience. Here, everyone seems to know everyone.
Live gigs are held almost every day at Bar 303, and watching a performer here feels like you’re sitting right in the artists living room, seeing them play their songs for the first time. There’s couches and seats galore, and a distinct smell that comes from years of serving whisky and beer. The culture is almost palpable. But don’t take our word for it, head up Northside to see for yourself!