The izakaya is Japan’s answer to the pub – the place you turn to when you need a cold beer, rowdy atmosphere and salty snack. You probably know this by now, because they’re all over town. This wasn’t the case in 2009, when Broadsheet published an article titled Izakaya Rising, introducing what was then a burgeoning phenomenon in Melbourne.

The dark, subterranean Izakaya Den opened in the CBD that same month, feeling like an instant classic and becoming the subject of just the 14th story ever published on Broadsheet.

Now, it’s about to join recent departures Gingerboy and Rosetta, and shut its doors for good.

Never miss a Melbourne moment. Make sure you're subscribed to our newsletter today.


“We’ve pretty proud of what we did at the start,” co-owner Simon Denton tells Broadsheet. "We brought something different to Melbourne: the idea of izakaya; we brought sake into the realm; we brought large bottles of Japanese beer. We brought all this stuff that hadn’t been seen here before.”

Like many restaurateurs, Denton and his co-owners, Miyuki Nakahara and Takashi Omi, have faced increasing headwinds that have made doing business more difficult. They’d have preferred to keep going, but felt it wasn’t viable.

“We looked into where the business is at," Denton says. “We’ve sort of been forced into this, in a sense. We had options: do we keep going, or do we stop? We just looked forward and thought, ‘The business isn’t strong enough. We’re going into winter, and things have shifted, definitely, over the past six to eight months, in general.”

Denton, who’s played a prominent role in Melbourne hospitality for 20 years with venues including Verge, Hihou, Kappo and Denton Wine Bar (all closed), isn’t sure about his next move, but says this isn’t the end: "I’ve really got to deal with this first. It’s a bit of a feeling of being a tree and being pruned. You come back so you can grow again, but you don’t start growing straight away; you’ve got to take some stock and see what happens. But I’m not going to just fade away.”

The trio announced the closure of Izakaya Den via Instagram earlier today, writing:

“We’re grateful to have been able to bring our vision of a slice of Japan to Melbourne and be a part of the fabric of this wonderful city.

“We would like to send out heartfelt thanks to all of our suppliers, supporters and collaborators over all these years and wish them a successful future.

“Our staff have been the heart and soul of the Izakaya Den ‘family’ and our love and thanks goes out to them all back in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and here in Australia. To our loyal and longstanding customers through to our ‘new’ regulars we thank you for sharing this journey and supporting us.

“Finally, we go out as we came in, perhaps a little aged and jaded, but still a team, still together, still true to ourselves.”

Izakaya Den’s final service is on Saturday April 27. The restaurant will be open from 5pm Monday to Saturday until then.