After a month-long renovation, Melbourne institution Gin Palace is back open. A mainstay in the city’s bar circuit since 1997, the basement venue is famous for its 200-strong gin menu, its coveted chicken sandwich and, above all, its lush interiors. But behind the velvet curtains, chandeliers and plush red banquettes, it was a different story.

“A lot of the stuff behind the scenes was in desperate need of repair,” owner Ben Luzz tells Broadsheet. “The bar was not up to scratch for the number of cocktails we were making” – which, he says, account for 90 per cent of drinks sold at the venue.

So what’s changed? Well, everything and nothing. “We can’t mess with the aesthetic too much or our loyal customers would leave in droves,” he says. As such, much of the renovations are functional, allowing bartenders to “serve drinks faster and at a higher quality”. The backbar wall has been gutted and replaced by a custom-designed "no-step bar", which allows bartenders to reach whatever they need to make a drink without moving their feet.

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It may seem like they’ve spent “a lot of money to keep it looking the same”, Luzz admits, but it’s all about keeping things fresh and new. “We’ve changed bits and pieces of Gin Palace [over time], but always tried to stay true to the original vision and aesthetic of the place.”

Along with changes to the bar, expect a whole new cocktail list, fresh carpeting, and swanky new purple leather-covered menus. While customers were knocking down the door during the haitus, the renovations have been well-received. “It’s about making sure we can stay open for another 27 years without faltering.”

Gin Palace
10 Russell Place, Melbourne
No phone

Daily 4pm–3am