Popular CBD cocktail joint The Cloakroom Bar is closing and moving to Melbourne after arrangements for a new lease on Queen Street Mall fell through at the eleventh hour. The bar’s tailor sister business will move to Melbourne too, but will also continue to operate in a pop-up space in Brisbane.
The long-term future of the bar and its neighbouring businesses on the corner of Edward and Elizabeth Streets had already been in doubt after development approval was granted in 2016 for an 82-storey residential tower on the block. Developer Aria later pulled out of that plan, choosing instead to recreate the lane behind the site as a mini food precinct. In the meantime though, luxury retailer Hermès, which already occupies the ground-floor corner tenancy, has arranged to take over much of the rest of the block.
The Cloakroom will now move its flagship bar and tailor down to Melbourne. The Brisbane bar will cease operating this week, while the tailor will soon move into a pop-up space above Country Road on Queen Street Mall until it finds a more permanent home.
“The decision was made for us,” bar manager Matthew O’Malley says. “There’s not enough time for us to relocate to a new space for both the bar and the tailor … we’re moving the flagship bar and tailor to the 46th floor of the Peppers hotel in [Southbank].”
It’s a blow for Brisbane’s cocktail scene, which has been going from strength to strength in recent years with the opening of The Cloakroom, Savile Row, Finney Isles, Death and Taxes and Alba Bar and Deli, among others. O’Malley says The Cloakroom Bar began doing big numbers once locals embraced its bespoke concept, where there is no menu and bartenders instead make drinks based on the customer’s preferences.
“We’ve been getting a good body of regulars,” O’Malley says. “A whole lot of new people as well. Word of mouth has really taken hold. And it’s really, really hurt us because we were going to go to another location that would have been larger. It would have been really good, but unfortunately the timeframes and allowances of trying to find a space rendered us powerless.
“[It’s] definitely [frustrating]. Absolutely. Brisbane has been on the precipice of accommodating something so bespoke. It was a very hard push to get something like this up. At the same time it’s a great opportunity to really sink into Melbourne and give it all we’ve got there.”
The Cloakroom Bar’s last night of service is technically this Friday, but due to a function the bar may not be accessible to the public, O’Malley says. Instead, the plan is to make Thursday the real heave-ho. As a final celebration, O’Malley has organised a special drinks menu co-written by the city’s best barkeeps – the idea being to introduce The Cloakroom’s patrons to some of Brisbane’s other great cocktail joints.
“I've asked them to give us a fun, really easy-to-drink low-ABV number that showcases what [Brisbane] can do,” O’Malley says. “And it’s been so well received. We had a record night last week. So it’s been nice to have that send-off. Almost a handover, essentially.”
Not that this is the end of The Cloakroom Bar in Brisbane, O’Malley says. Once Melbourne is up and running, the intention is to return to the Queensland capital bigger and better. Watch this space.