The first thing to catch your eye when you enter Moon Dog Wild West is likely to be the mechanical bull. Purchased from Pennsylvania-based company Mechanical Bull Sales, it serves as the venue’s centrepiece (and you must be over 18 to ride).

The second thing is likely to be the large mural behind the ground-floor bar depicting a desert landscape that seems to stretch on forever. The work was painted by Scenic Studios, a local company that specialises in film backdrops. It perfectly sets the tone for this new themed venue that takes its influence from old-Hollywood interpretations of the American west.

The mammoth new Moon Dog Wild West, an 800-capacity spot in Footscray’s iconic Franco Cozzo building, is set to open following a considerable back and forth with the Maribynong Council over building permits and parking concerns.

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The highly anticipated bar is the third venue from the brewery, which brothers Jake and Josh Uljans and their friend Karl van Buuren founded in a tiny Abbotsford warehouse back in 2011. The new Wild West bar follows Moon Dog OG and Moon Dog World, a gargantuan 725-capacity Preston HQ that has an indoor lagoon and a tiki bar.

When the trio got the keys to the iconic Footscray building in August last year, they began transforming the space into “a big concept-driven place”, as Josh tells Broadsheet. (Locals will be pleased to know they’ve maintained the Franco Cozzo signage on the exterior, as well as a mural of the late local celebrity who founded the eponymous furniture store.)

It’s a sprawling space, with nooks and crannies filled with vintage finds including wagon wheels, cowhides and a taxidermy cobra fighting a mongoose. “The idea is to have different areas and modular fields where you can go exploring,” Karl tells Broadsheet.

On the ground floor – in addition to the mechanical bull – you’ll find a platform with horseshoe booths, a 10-seat private dining room and a “kid’s ranch” with a playground and old-school arcade games including Sega’s Astro City and a Big Buck Hunter shooting game. In this section of the venue, the references draw more from classic Hollywood Westerns and call to mind images of John Wayne in films like Stagecoach or Red River and Gary Cooper in High Noon.

Follow neon signs to the second floor to find a space that Josh describes as “more dive bar, honky-tonk”. There’s a smoking area, three red velvet-topped pool tables, floods of natural light on one side of the room and a bar with vinyl chairs. There’s also a stage inspired by Bob’s Country Bunker from The Blues Brothers. The second floor is also home to a pianola bar that can be used as a 100-person private event space.

And finally, at the rooftop bar, the theme is “desert dream”. This comes through in fake cacti and rocks sourced from China, and pale pink, green and burnt orange furniture. There are two converted shipping containing making up a bar and “cantina” where guests are encouraged to order taco trays and sizzling fajitas.

The food and drink menu extends the brand’s interpretation of the Wild West theme. Josh and Karl are eager to point out that it’s primarily a Moon Dog bar that serves pub classics, but note the menu will have an “American barbeque lean in certain areas – some Tex-Mex and big T-bone steaks”. There’s a wide range of loosely North American dishes including a Santa Fe salad, with cos lettuce, charred corn salsa, Mexican string cheese and southwest dressing; a New Orleans-influenced creole-style smothered chicken; and a pie of the day with whipped cream for dessert.

The venue has over 100 taps serving Moon Dog brews, of course. Other drinks include wines by the glass, classic cocktails and bespoke ones including Catfish Blues (tequila, mezcal, lime, passionfruit, blue curacao and soda). There are also two alcoholic slushees – Tequila Sunrise and Jack Daniels and cola – and “Cowboy Shots” (shots served in cowboy boot-shaped shot glasses).

The American west has a dark history, and the associated iconography references both the good and bad sides of all things Americana. A Wild West theme is a complicated one, but Josh says the team’s approach has been “making sure we are taking the elements that are fun and nice, that [are] inclusive and not contributing to any of the negative sides of it”.

Moon Dog Wild West
54 Hopkins Street, Footscray
9428 2307

Hours:
Mon & Tue 3pm–11pm
Wed & Thu 11.30am–11pm
Fri & Sat 11.30am–1am
Sun 11.30am–11pm

@MoonDogWildWest

Moon Dog Wild West opens on April 26.