As the Sydney vs Melbourne debate rages on, Brisbane’s nightlife has been steadily on the rise. While occasional visitors to the balmy Queensland capital already know the likes of Family and The Met, a host of new bars, parties and promoters have shaken up the scene in recent years.
From late-night cocktails to grimy techno parties, a weekend in Brisbane might just confound your expectations. (Just don’t plan on getting much sleep.) With the help of our Brisbane scene insiders, here are some must-dos for the discerning clubber.
Brisbane’s small bar scene is thriving right now, with a host of newish places catering to every kind of beer, wine and cocktail enthusiast. Here are a few places to hit up before the club phase begins.
This sleek laneway bar in the CBD is a favourite of local DJ and producer Cassandra Kemp, AKA Cìrukè. “It showcases a really eclectic selection of electronic music; predominantly on vinyl,” she says. “The cocktails are also delectable.” Enough said.
48 Burnett Lane, Brisbane City 4000
Alfred & Constance
Stretched across two heritage-listed houses in the Valley, Alfred & Constance is one of the more spacious drink stops on this list. With several areas for different phases of the night, it’s a good option for a frozen cocktail or a pub meal before walking to a nearby club.
130 Constance St, Fortitude Valley 4006
You’ll definitely find Brisbane’s stalwart house and techno crew Auditree at this dream destination for whisky diehards. Along with Maker (see below), it’s their favourite place to drink right now. The menu at this West End spot is drinks-only but you can BYO food.
7 Browning Street, West End 4101
This up-close and personal bar in South Bank is renowned for its seriously creative cocktails, with a focus on locally sourced ingredients and spirits. While it’s well worth a visit, be warned that it does get cosy.
9 Fish Lane, South Brisbane 4101
Betty’s Espresso & Bar
Housed in a traditional worker’s cottage in West End, Betty’s has a whole lot of personality. “By day it’s a cute little coffee shop, and by night an awesome bar with queer film screenings, the occasional burlesque show and an awesome community/local vibe,” reports one of our Brisbane insiders.
11 Browning Street, West End 4101
Tequila puts a fire under any party, and Alquimia is like a mini-temple to the stuff. Billed as Brisbane’s first dedicated tequila bar, it’s a very classy kick-off to a night in the Valley.
702 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley 4006
Archive Beer Boutique
“Archive Beer Boutique in West End is a long-time favourite for having a few drinks before heading into the Valley or the City,” says Cassandra Kemp, who you’ll often find DJing at Dragonfruit parties. Beer geeks, meet your warm-up destination.
100 Boundary Street, West End 4101
Brisbane’s nightlife has experienced some complicated changes in recent years, with promoters noting that pop-up events and house parties have taken some shine away from clubs. Hit any of the following spots, though, and you’ll be dancing in no time.
Capulet, a Valley cocktail bar that transforms into a club after 10pm, is the home base of house and techno collective Dragonfruit. With a unique open-air courtyard out the back (a big tick for Brisbane), Dragonfruit nights at Capulet have recently featured Nastia, Carl Craig, Deetron and Marcel Dettmann.
188 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley 4006
The TBC Club
For house and techno in a proper club setting, you’ll want to make time for The TBC Club. Located under The Flying Cock pub, this where you’ll find stalwart crew Auditree in control of what ringleader Frank Li calls “one of the best sound systems in the country”. On any given weekend, you might catch a Dirtybird signee, a UK house don or a local legend in the booth.
388 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley 4006
If you need a live music fix in Brisbane, be sure to check out The Foundry. Opening back in 2015, the three-level venue brings in both indie-leaning bands and DJs, with everyone from Lost Animal and PVT to Anklepants and Roland Tings booked so far this year.
228 Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley 4006
Fritzenburger is a bar and restaurant that specialises in delicious fried things and microbrews, which is reason enough to visit. However, the building (which previously housed Casablanca) also boasts a Funktion 1-equipped cellar coined Fritzenbunker. With guests like Pender Street Steppers, Terry Farley and Rahaan, it’s becoming an underground haven for people in the know.
52 Petrie Terrace, Petrie Terrace 4000
Like Capulet, Laruche doubles as a cocktail bar and an intimate dancefloor, with bookings that play to house and disco enthusiasts. Think guests like Soul Clap, Tim Sweeney and Crazy P’s Ron Basejam right in the thick of Fortitude Valley.
680 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley 4006
Barbara is a very attractive small bar in the Valley, with handmade wood fixtures, a rotating selection of craft beers and a well-curated cocktail list. Its good looks also extend to the vinyl-friendly DJ booth and sound system, which gets a good workout every weekend.
105/38 Warner Street, Fortitude Valley 4006
“Compared to Sydney and Melbourne, Brisbane’s late-night/early morning food scene is still developing,” says local DJ Cassandra Kemp. Don’t fret, though, because these spots will satiate any urges for late-night calories.
Who doesn’t want to visit a place called Greaser after a night out? This back alley basement bar keeps its kitchen open late, slinging out burgers and fried chicken when you most crave them.
259 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley 4006
Open seven nights a week until 3am, Heya Bar pairs beer and cocktails with Pan-Asian street food. “The Karaage Popcorn Chicken and Pork Belly Bao are my go-tos,” tips Cassandra Kemp.
351 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley 4006
Alfredo’s Pizzeria and Bar
Alfredo’s is a utility option for a night out in the Valley, with a bar, full food menu until midnight every night and, most crucially, wood-fired pizza by the slice until 3am on weekends.
39 Alfred Street, Fortitude Valley 4006
The Pancake Manor
Running since 1979, The Pancake Manor is the opposite of a hyped new after-hours option. But really, any place that’s open 24 hours selling pancakes deserves to be on this list. It’s a Brisbane institution for a reason.
18 Charlotte Street, Brisbane City 4000
Brisbane’s nightlife has never been better despite some recent turbulent times, the lockouts could be on the brink of extinction and there are a bunch of people that continue to build a positive nightlife culture in a thoroughly under-rated city, check out what they had to say during House of Bacardi here.