Mana Bar has been operating successfully in Brisbane for over a year now, so it’s only fitting that Melbourne gets the second installment. But this is not just a franchising of the name - original owner and operator Guy ‘Yug’ Blomberg has relocated to Melbourne specifically to set up the new addition.
The premise is simple: Mana Bar is a cocktail bar with video games. There are seven screens across two rooms, each screen has a dedicated Xbox, Playstation and Wii linked to it behind the bar, so the systems can be mixed and matched as required. The games that run on each screen are pre-selected each night, usually based around a theme or event (Yug plans to run a different event every night). However, if the punters want to play a particular game, all they have to do is ask the bar staff nicely. The selection of games on offer encourage multiple patron participation - the idea, Yug explains, is to encourage punters to use the games as a social experience to meet and play with friends.
Like a lot Fitzroy bars, Mana Bar is small, but its lo-fi, lounge-room ambiance makes it feel cosy. At its maximum capacity of 50 it doesn’t feel crowded and even if you don’t pick up a game controller it’s still a fun, funky little place to have a drink with mates. There’s no food on offer, but there are plenty of cocktails ($15 each) to choose from and are game-themed and created especially for the bar. You can enjoy both the taste and the pun in an Ocarina of Lime (rum and lime) or Princess Peach (gin and peaches). If you fancy something stronger there is a range of similarly-themed shots, like The Shambler (bourbon and taric acid) and Finish Him (vodka and tomato juice).
If you see Yug around the bar (just look out for his name stitched onto his shirt and uber-friendly smile), do go up and say hi - his enthusiasm for the bar and gaming in general is extremely infectious and he seems very happy to chat with gamers and cocktail-lovers alike. He’s created not only an interesting new addition not just to the Melbourne bar scene, but a new social hub for gamers of all stripes.