It’s a scientific fact that drinking is more fun than working. Drinking while complaining about work is also more fun than working, and has been a popular pastime since the days when work for most people involved being lowered down a salt mine or shoved up a chimney.
The pessimistic name of Fitzroy's Labour In Vain seems to have been chosen to appeal to the tired and disgruntled; it's easy to imagine it having much the same effect when this likeably ragged old boozer was new. The Labour (or Labor – the spelling on the signage varies) has remained determinedly working class in the face of gentrification. The dingy green carpet, with its tide mark of old cigarette burns along the bar, appears older than some of the patrons, and a string of ancient Abbots Stout cutouts hang over the bar. Hard to believe then that it was a shop for decades, only re-opening as a pub in 1998 (the website, linked below, hosts an interesting history of the pub from its establishment in 1853 to the 21st century).
Anthemic classic rock features strongly in the large record collection, as does country music – it's something of a far-flung outpost of Nashville. The bar hosts bands one or two nights a week, with an emphasis on Americana, which fits well with the relaxed, down-at-heels atmosphere.
Large, fold-back windows line the shopfront, letting in the breeze in summer and providing year-round entertainment in the form of people-watching. The beer deck is also popular when the weather allows; when it doesn’t, an evening at the Labour becomes a matter of simply squeezing into the barroom where you can and trying not to spill your pint on anyone. Whatever the conditions, it certainly beats working.