This old carpark became an iconic jungle bar seven years ago. This Saturday, they’re throwing a birthday party to remember

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This old carpark became an iconic jungle bar seven years ago. This Saturday, they’re throwing a birthday party to remember

Whitehart Bar
Words by Juliette Salom

Celebrate Whitehart’s 7th birthday with live jazz, garage DJs and $7 cocktails.

From an old carpark behind a camera shop to one of the CBD’s best open-air bars, Whitehart has come a long way since its humble beginnings seven years ago.

When Stephen Johnson and Sabrina Santucci became friendly with the Michaels family (of Michaels Camera Shop) through using their carpark at the end of the CBD’s Whitehart Lane whilst the couple ran a coffee shop in the city, the carpark was nothing more than an old empty lot of land. Now – seven years later – the carpark, the city and the lives of Johnson and Santucci are all irrevocably changed.

“We had often thought how amazing and hidden away the space was, right in the heart of the city,” Johnson says of the old carpark. Nestled between growing skyscrapers and the hustle and bustle of the city’s laneways, Whitehart Bar counteracts the concrete jungle of the city’s CBD with a jungle of their own making. Filled to the brim with a treasured collection of giant old Staghorns, Elkhorns and a family of other beautiful plants, the venue is like a reprieve of fresh air amongst all the chaos of the city. “We stand green and strong as the city continues to grow around us,” Johnson says.

Whitehart Bar in the CBD

  • 22 Whitehart Lane, Melbourne
  • Open every day 12pm-late

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This converted carpark space is not your average shipping container bar. Whilst the coverage of foliage signals something of a herbarium, the multi-level open air bar has been made from unused steel beams and recycled materials from an old steel yard. “Those beams became our main frame, our bones,” Johnson says. “They inspired our design process.” Together with a range of other recycled materials – like shipping containers, old honey drums, bowling alley floors as tabletops, Robin Day chairs, old bluestone foundations, crates, and of course, many, many plants – Whitehart came together as a unique creative space with an industrial edge at the end of Whitehart Lane in 2017.

Seven years is no small amount of time to last the ever-changing landscape and precarious journey of a hospitality venue in Naarm’s CBD. From a pandemic to extreme weather events to a cost-of-living crisis, Johnson credits the Whitehart family as the reason the bar is still running as one of the city’s coolest venues today. “Creating a comfortable and welcoming space for all is a credit to our staff and how friendly, hardworking and naturally welcoming they are,” he says.

To celebrate its 7th birthday, from 4pm on Saturday March 16 Whitehart is throwing one heck of a party. A bar known for its exciting program of performers, its eclectic range of cocktails and drinks, as well as its visionary design, Whitehart will be paying homage to its seven years with nothing but good music, cheap drinks and visual art to suit.


The urban oasis will be featuring Now Here This all-star jazz band on the Whitehart stage, along with a twist to the traditional choir in the Halo Vocal Ensemble. To match the electric energy of dancefloors well into the night will be DJ sets from Australia’s First Lady of garage Lady Erica, as well as Naarm favourites Taijae and Carl Os. Additionally, serving up the night with a visual feast on display will be artwork and visual projections from artist Kurious Kat, creating an immersive experience for birthday party attendees.

A bar known for its 18 beer taps and over two dozen packaged products in the fridge, as well as a rotating menu of innovative drinks (childhood ice cream-inspired cocktail, anyone?) and delicious spirits and wines, Whitehart willing be pulling out nothing less than all the stops for the drinks menu at their birthday bash. There’ll be a Starward Whisky speakeasy-style pop up bar, as well as $7 cocktails (run don’t walk!) available from the bar until sold out. To line stomachs, laneway neighbours +39 Pizzeria will be supplying delicious goodness from 5pm, with limited availability.

Whitehart Bar 7th birthday party celebrations

  • Performances from Now Here This and Halo Vocal Ensemble
  • DJ sets from Lady Erica, Taijae and Carl Os
  • Visual art projections by Kurious Kat
  • Starward Whisky speakeasy-style pop up bar
  • $7 cocktails
  • Pizza from +39 Pizzeria from 5pm

In addition to the birthday celebrations, the venue also has an exciting program of upcoming events that are begging not to be missed out on. From representing Brisbane in the Pint of Origin in May to running a Winter Solstice event with local artists, Whitehart has a variety of events on offer all year round. And if an after-work drink or a weekend cocktail is enough to tipple your fancy, this jungle in the CBD is a hard one to pass by.

Follow Whitehart Bar on IG here and check out their website for more info here.