Cherry Bar

Cherry Bar

Melbourne, VIC

Cherry Bar is a fixture on the Melbourne city map, particularly among fans of rock music and late-night partying. Everyone in Melbourne with a vague interest in music has heard of Cherry Bar and likely been there.

You’re reading Beat, so there’s no doubt you’ve not only heard of but have had a few pints at the Cherry. It’s a staple of the Aussie music scene, many of the world’s greatest performers have graced its stage. They’re a great bar in their own front, slinging some great drinks that really top off the experience. There’s no doubting it, all the writers here are massive fans of Cherry, and we couldn’t have a proper crawl of Melbourne CBD bars and pubs without it.

The Cherry Bar owners stunned many of us when they announced the opening of their new venue The Hotel Westwood where the old Reverence Hotel used to stand.

What you need to know

– Address: 68 Little Collins St
– Vibe: Dive bar, but extremely welcoming
– Live Music: Rock emphasis, but broad range of performers
– Dedicated Menu: Great drinks

Read more stories from our archives about Cherry Bar here.

There’s no shortage of great gigs coming up at the Cherry, TUXEDOS, Mountain Wizard Death cult and Raging Moby each making their way to the venue this year. Check out the rest of the gig guide here.

Like many Melbourne venues, the Cherry offers up some awesome merch, so you can represent the spot wherever you are – you can even grab some stuff for your dog too, giving them some cool street cred at the dog park.

History of Cherry Bar

The new and improved Cherry Bar re-opened in what used to be the site of former Melbourne nightclub Boney, and we’ve been given the first look at what they’ve done to the place. The road to relocation was a long one, with Cherry announcing it would leave AC/DC Lane back in January. It was only last month that the new location was publicly revealed. Here’s what’s you can expect.

Cherry’s reincarnation comes with an increased capacity of 260 people and a 24/7 licence. For the very first time, the bar will have free downstairs entry every night until 11pm. Doors to the downstairs area open from 5pm and entry into the upstairs area will open up from 8pm. Now in its ninth year, the beloved Cherry Blues Sunday series will continue at the new venue but will kick off from 5pm instead of the usual 2pm slot.

According to bar staff, the venue will be open nights from Wednesday to Sunday until late January, from which point it’ll be open seven nights a week. Half of all gig tickets will be available for pre-sale, with the rest available for purchase on the night. Cherry is just a hop, skip and a jump away from where it used to be, so don’t fret about making the extra schlep. What’s more, the bar’s 20th birthday is on Friday December 27, so needless to say it’s a massive month for the Melbourne institution.

 

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An archive interview with Cherry Bar’s owners

But the bar’s tenure on AC/DC Lane has come to end, with a new location soon to be announced. Open since 1999, it only really hit its stride when owner James Young came on board about 13 years ago.

“When I inherited the bar it was in financial ruin, owing an enormous amount to the ATO and it never had live bands on,” Young says. “I’m very glad that I didn’t do my due diligence, because no one in the world would’ve allowed me to buy the bar. I just got lucky and sold my advertising agency and for the first time in my life I came into some money and I wanted to buy my favourite bar in the world just to make sure I could always get in.”

The bar was open on just Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights during the early years. Once Young joined, however, they started operating seven nights a week with the ambition to put on as much live music as possible. This allowed Cherry to turn a corner financially and over the last decade the bar’s transformed from a successful underground hang-out to a recognised mainstream venue.

“We’re just a door in a building in a lane,” Young says. “Thankfully I saved my best marketing move for myself, changing Corporation Lane to AC/DC Lane 12 years ago. But there’s not a grandiose flashing sign out the front that says Cherry’s there. During the day people can’t find it and even at night they have difficulty finding it.”

A self-styled dive bar, Cherry is capped to just 200 people. It might sound small-scale, but its reputation is immense. It’s become a go-to hang out for local and touring musicians, attracting the likes of Noel Gallagher, Arctic Monkeys, Metallica and Axl Rose.

“You could argue that we’re internationally the best known bar in Australia,” Young says. “When it began, Cherry was a cool underground bar where you could go in and listen to someone play the entire Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers  album track for track from vinyl. Then it evolved once we started doing live bands to the opposite of an underground bar – a bar that even people who live in Hoppers Crossing and listen to Triple M and may not have been to the bar know of its existence.

“I was in the bar recently and it was very quiet and two couples came in that were both international tourists that had arrived that morning from their different flights from Europe. Both of them said you can’t pick up a guide on Melbourne without reading that you have to go to the Cherry Bar.”

Building a reputation is one thing, but preserving what fed the reputation is harder to achieve. Young doesn’t want to grow nostalgic or fawn over the glory days, but he’s been reluctant to make many changes in the bar.

“We’ve left it exactly the same. Scarcely changed the carpet, scarcely changed the posters on the wall, always defended its integrity. I do wish that I could’ve solved the toilet smell; it’s the one thing I won’t miss,” he says.

Keeping it real has always been Cherry’s number one objective. “The council came down once and said, ‘We see that you’ve got these illegal street posters that keep getting put up in the laneway. They look a bit rough round the edges. We thought we’d come down and … put the posters neatly in a nice little frame and they won’t look so unclean’. To which I said, ‘Are you out of your fucking mind?’

“There’s all the other bars around us who have functioning air conditioning and nice smelling bathrooms with their mock gold swan-shaped faucets. But the irony with a dive bar, especially after midnight – we’re open til 5.00am – people connect to the nitty gritty and to something being real.”

 

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People are justified in worrying that the move to a new location means the loss of Cherry’s unique ambience. But while he can’t promise the exact same layout, atmosphere and aroma, Young is transplanting as much as he can.

“I’m taking the staff, I’m taking the red table top bar, I’m taking the red curtain behind the stage, I’m taking the carpet,” he says. “The toilet smell is the only thing I want to leave behind. It’s got to be a late night dive bar, it’s got to have a capacity that’s under 250, it’s got to have live music relentlessly.

“But at the same time, there’ll never be anything like Cherry in AC/DC Lane. It’s the perfect location and the perfect design in terms of shape and how it miraculously sounded so good and how you could stand at the end of the bar and have a conversation while the band was playing without having your ears blown off.”

Some highlight stories about Cherry Bar

Cherry Bar’s James Young on that time a kangaroo stole his denim jacket

Cherry Bar’s beloved CherryRock festival is returning next year

Some legend just built a miniature replica of Cherry Bar

Cherry Bar Seeks Community Help Against Noise Complaints

The new Cherry Bar is located at 68 Little Collins Street, Melbourne (the former site of Boney). For more info, head to the venue website.