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February 22, 2010 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Salient Bar Review

You’ve just moved to Wellington. You’ve just turned 18. You’re all dressed up, it’s hit quiet time and the RAs are kicking you out. It’s time to head to town, but where to go? Luckily for you, Salient’s been there, done that and we shall impart upon you, dear first years, some advice about the bars to peruse in town.

The Big Kumara, Dixon Street

The quintessential/only student bar in Wellington. The Big K—as it is affectionately known by its patrons—has two parts: there’s the bit where the cover bands play, and the other bit with the pole. Cheap drinks and pashes are guaranteed almost any night of the week. This bar is a rite of passage for all first years in Wellington, and it’s the only place we’ve ever seen a slutty toga. The smell of Red Bull will never quite be the same.

The Garden Club, Dixon Street

To draw on the words of our fantastic bartender Matt, the bottom floor’s the heterosexual bar (Garden Club), the middle floor’s the bisexual bar (The Terrace Bar), and the top floor is the homosexual bar (Ivy). It’s a bit of a crude description, but there’s really something for everyone. Please don’t point and say, “that’s the gay bar” if you wander past. The middle floor is also a smoking bar, so if you happen to a bisexual smoker, then you’ve really found your place. They also played Lady Gaga while we were there, so The Garden Club totally gets the Salient seal of approval.

Downtown Local, bottom of Cuba Street

The typical clientele at DTL is old men watching sport or playing on the pokies, and the Weir House kids. The drinks are more than affordable. One of our group was once told to get out of the way, as she was blocking one man’s view of the rugby game that was on. Yeah, clearly we don’t care about rugby. For the politics nerds out there, you’ll be interested to know that DTL screened both TVNZ and TV3’s coverage of the 2008 election results.

Mighty Mighty, Cuba Street

Red velvet curtains and sprawling pot plants that continue to thrive, despite undoubtedly being fed copious amounts of Castlepoint beer every weekend. Local and national acts often frequent this venue, followed by energetic indie-centric DJ sets. The quarts of Castlepoint are by far the drink of choice at Mighty. Seriously, it’s the best-tasting cheap beer you’ll ever consume. We’d recommend wearing an ironic item of clothing in order to start obnoxious conversations in the following fashion: “Oh? My handlebar moustache drawn on with felt tip pen? Thanks! Yeah, I’m surfing the second wave of feminism and feel it highlights the inequality inherent in facial hair.”

San Francisco Bath House, Cuba Street

San Fran is renowned for its sweet lineup of gigs. Most touring international acts worth seeing perform on their stage. They went through a brief and cruel stage in which they refused to give patrons water for free, but thankfully this regime has ended. San Fran is like a black shoebox filled with awesome sound; there are few places to sit, little light, and not much in the way of décor. There is, however, a large balcony which makes for one of the most scenic smoking locations in Wellington, good for people-watching on the streets below, or some voyeuristic peeping into the apartments across the way. This bar is also home to 24 Hour Party People and Atomic, so if you’re keen for a night in which you can dance your blues away while avoiding creepy old men who are creeping closer and closer, we recommend checking it out.

Cavern Club, Allen Street

This underground bar puts the ‘cave’ in ‘cavern’ and a fine line of sweat on one’s upper lip. Would recommend the ‘Lady Marmalade’ shot. Eclectic mix of people grooving to eclectic music. There are some pictures of this band called The Beatles on the wall. Vague? We recall running into friends and yelling at them. Can you tell we stopped by rather late in the evening?


Nee Sports Cafe. Recently renovated and utterly revamped. This place is a bit flash in a fairly generic, dance hits, low lit kind of way. I also seem to remember the smell of something delicious in the air, which leads me to believe they serve food. The internet confirms this suspicion. The seating looks comfy.

Electric Avenue

The coloured flashing lights either serve as an incarnation of heaven or hell, depending on your opinion of dancing. What is your opinion on dancing? We recommend solidifying it before coming here, because otherwise you may be in for a rude awakening. Basically, if you want to dance, come here. You will dance. Oh, you will dance. Otherwise, don’t. We’ve been told to check out the student offerings on Wednesdays.

Good Luck

Another underground one, but this time on Cuba. Any male in this bar can be found wearing extremely tight black jeans, an oversized t-shirt and a woollen hat that resembles a condom. Half of this bar is romantically arranged with white tablecloths and candles, while the other half is for dancing to electrodancyhaus music. And by dancing we mean grinding. Delicious cocktails.

Places you first years will eventually go and the name will sound familiar because you read it here:

Watusi, Havana, The Hawthorne, Matterhorn, Motel.


About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

Comments (1)

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  1. Kerry says:

    Southern Cross Bar?
    Famous for being a venue that lets groups book their function room very cheaply, if not free … with Garden Bar, good food and the capacity to ‘book’ areas for stuff like 21sts. Abel Smith St, top of Cuba.

    Occidental Bar?
    Lambton Quay, mostly notable for being the watering hole of political journalists & ‘whistle-blowers’, often concurrently… Occasional Lawyers, due to being adjacent to the District Court.
    Spot Guyon Espiner, David Farrar, and errr, any other right-wing hacks of your acquaintance.

    The Adelaide?
    No, scratch that, it closed.

    The Fringe Bar?
    Cnr Cuba & Vivian St, home to late-nite laffs during the Fringe Fest, also a karaoke hell-hole most of the year & frequently the last bar open in town.
    Good for drunken solos, or duets with the new guy you just hooked up with.

    Happy Bar?
    Tory & Vivian St, another underground bar, tends to experimental music – if you know anyone struggling to find a venue, they’ll get their first gig there.

    Medusa Bar?
    Tends to the punk/Alt/Goth Industrial crowd, fun for a look if you don’t know what those tags refer to – think of it as musical anthropology.
    Vivian St, formerly Valve; even more formerly, the Hole in the Wall.

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