For most people, nightclubs inevitably lose their appeal at some point or another. Steve Costa and Kyle Bush might be nearing that time, but they’re not quite ready to give up the tunes. “We still want to play dance music, but we want to sit down and have a cocktail, rather than be in a smoky nightclub,” Bush says.

Their answer is Joey Smalls, a bar on Sydney Road with faint echoes of their other ventures, New Guernica, Chuckle Park and Chuckle Deli.

There’s music on any given day, but Fridays and Saturdays are when things really get kicking. On the former night, you’re likely to catch Mike Gurrieri, Miss Goldie, Manchild and other soul DJs, while the latter is a mix of house, hip-hop and disco.

At other times, the space is used to host internationals, or hold parties such as the recent River Yarra EP launch. It also happens to have one of the latest licenses in the area (3am), so you can comfortably settle in for the long haul.

It’s a good place to do so. Putting aside the tunes, the range of rum and tequila and the tap beers (Asahi, Blue Moon), the decor is entertainment itself. It fuses elements of American diner, mid-century modern, Memphis and blonde-timbered Scandinavia, yet somehow pulls them all together into a coherent look at odds with everything else in Melbourne.

“Initially it started off with a bit of influence from the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars,” Costa says. That much is clear in the rugged, cave-like ceiling Bush broke his hip creating (he fell off a ladder), but the piano-key bar and brightly hued wall glyphs are more puzzling. “I don't like using one style. It just seems boring otherwise,” Bush explains. “So now it’s a diner in space ... or something like that.”

At some point in the future it’ll become a real diner, when they enlist a food operator to run the small kitchen and cook burgers, fried chicken and fries until 1am. “We're in negotiations with someone you'll know,” Bush says.

Joey Smalls
284 Sydney Road, Brunswick
0414 977 342

Thu 4pm‒1am
Fri & Sat 4pm‒3am
Sun 2pm‒1am