After six years of leopard-print, tiny parasols and the odd skull, LuWOW’s calling it a night. Like the tiki bar’s band of loyal clientele, owner Josh Collins put his body on the line in service to the party gods.
“My favourite night was when we had a Will Ferrell party,” he recalls. “I had a disastrous rollerskating accident and cracked a rib doing my Blades of Glory routine.”
Even putting aside its dedication to the tiki theme, there’s been nowhere else in Melbourne quite like the LuWOW. While many other Melbourne venues looked to elevate drinks to the level of fine-dining, the Johnson Street bar took itself far less seriously. LuWoW staked its claim with tongue-in-cheek decor, tropical cocktails and a deep affection for all things kitsch. With a well-earned reputation for loose evenings, LuWoW found a grubby little corner in many hearts.
It’s been a tonne of fun for everyone, but particularly so for fans of exotica, go-go and music from the ‘50s and ‘60s. The venue provided an important showcase for DJs and revival bands dedicated to those sounds, but in recent years, times have been tough for the Fitzroy bar. “I don’t know that it is as successful as you’d think. We had great parties, but it wasn’t very well attended,” he says. “Our take is about 50 percent of what it was when we opened.
“People are drinking less, full stop. People come out, sit there all night and don’t buy a single drink. Maybe people don’t like to be drunk anymore? I certainly do. And I think people are taking more D-R-U-G-S … It’s a hard gig, but that’s not the reason for shutting.”
While LuWOW’s final night is Friday December 23, Collins is still committed to tiki, with plans to open tiki-style bed-and-breakfasts in Queensland … and Brunswick. He believes this particular brand of Pacific kitsch will never go out of fashion.
“It’s about escapism,” he says. “You can just go through the doors and you’re somewhere else. It’s also about the attention to detail – you don’t just get a drink in a glass, you get a whole theatre show: it’s mixed in front of you, garnished and delivered with aplomb, with great music.”
LuWOW will also be immortalised in the form of Fags in the Fast Lane, a homegrown movie that’s been filming in the bar for the past 12 months and is due to screen at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival in March.
“It’s a crazy road movie,” explains Collins. “We’ve been building sets in the back area and taking them into the bar, and filming in the tiki bar. There are some great bands playing in it – King Khan and the Mummies, the Sugar Fed Leopards, Men from S.P.E.C.T.R.E., Pugsley Buzzard and Mojo Juju, and Tex Perkins: all these people make appearances.”
Thankfully LuWOW’s not closed yet. There’s still a few nights of fruity cocktails ahead.
“We’ve got our in-house go-go troupe – the GoGo Goddesses – who have a great routine planned. We’re going to play some great records, and we’re going to dance like crazy all night,” says Collins. “We’ll drink the bar dry of Mai Tais.”
62–70 Johnston Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9417 5447