When iconic nightclub Lounge closed in April after 29 years of service and a final, raging 29-hour-long party, Melbourne’s dance music community was heartbroken.
The venue had been a lynchpin for the city’s electronic music community, and the news that an unnamed operator was taking over left many wondering if the city was going to lose another music institution and a rare 24-hour licence.
But as fate would have it, development with that operator stalled and the lease was picked up by the team behind laneway bar Section 8 and little sibling Ferdydurke. Both venues have been long-time supporters of Melbourne DJ culture – which is set to continue when the former Lounge re-opens as Radar Bar and Nightclub in July.
“It was pretty opportunistic,” says project manager Amber McCabe. “It was like, ‘If you want it, you have to take the keys tomorrow’ kind of thing. It was very much an impulse buy.”
In the short term, McCabe will assume the general manager position at the club, in her first managerial role since the closing of much-loved Carlton restaurant The Town Mouse, of which she was a co-owner.
While the bones of the venue will remain the same, some significant upgrades are on the way for the opening, namely the installation of a Funktion-One sound system – considered to be the industry-wide gold standard in club sound systems.
A new lighting installation and rig is being designed by the John Fish Collective, whose work has featured at festivals like Pitch Music and Arts, Freedom Time and Strawberry Fields.
New design flourishes include a 130-year-old 3.5-metre-long wooden table, flashes of gold, emerald green banquette seats and new lighting. The bar has also been reclad and extended. Importantly for fans of the Lounge, the venue’s balcony will remain open-air.
“Because the previous tenants were here for so long they just added on over the years,” says McCabe. “I’d like to think we’ve put a bit more of a coherent design together … it might feel like the venue has grown up a little bit.”
For the time being there won’t be food at Radar – that will come in its second phase. But the bar will be independent from the big breweries and liquor company contracts that often dominate the club scene. Instead you’ll find independent brews and cocktails on tap, as well as a natural and biodynamic-leaning wine list.
“We’re very aware of the history of this building and of Lounge’s very loyal following,” says McCabe. “We’re very hopeful to be seen to be respectful of the space. And hope to be able to continue to keep the space open to support the local dance music community.”
Radar Bar and Nightclub is set to open by the end of July.
This article was updated on June 28, 2019 at 9.30am.