You may have heard about The Buffalo Club. It’s a bar that’s breathing new life into a gentlemen’s club (or fraternal organisation) known as R.A.O.B G.A.B, which has been operating in Melbourne’s inner city since the 1920s.
The new club, officially titled R.A.O.B G.A.B Buffalo Club, is a former ballroom complete with disco ball and lodge banners. The space is impressive in its authenticity as a social club. New owner Hugo Atkins made only a few changes to the fit-out before opening the doors, using mostly materials that were already on the premises to make booths and stages.
One thing that springs to mind when entering the club is, how anyone ever knew that it was here. “I just knew a place like this existed, I had a hunch, so I looked around until I found it”, Atkins says.
After finding it, Atkins became a member of the fraternal organisation that is R.A.O.B G.A.B, which stands for The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes – The Grand Australian Banner. The initiation process involved blindfolds, secret handshakes, breaking bottles over one’s head, and getting really drunk.
Now Atkins has been entrusted with taking care of the place, and while this is his first venture into the bar world, the new Buffalo Club, and a sense of what it is about, are quickly taking shape. Shying away from advertising, Atkins has chosen to rely on word of mouth to let people know about the bar.
Those who do find their way there need not worry about an initiation process. However the club does operate under a full RSL club license, meaning you have to become a member online or simply sign in as a guest on entrance. Membership is $20 a year and members enjoy the benefit of discounts at an already pretty cheap bar. The bar boasts an exclusive beer, Ultimate Beer, and quite a selection of Italian aperitifs.
Atkins runs the bar himself for now and with the help of friends This Thing Music Collective, the music is taken care of and is drawing growing crowds to the humble city digs. While operating as a live music venue since 1953, today The Buffalo Club celebrates Melbourne’s left-of-centre dance music culture. The music is new, electronic and beat-based. “All that falls under the banner of good music”, according to Atkins.
The RSL licensing is advantageous for the club’s ability to contribute to the dance music scene, as the club opens from 5pm until 5am on Thursdays and Fridays when there is something on, and closes at midnight on Saturday, when they will be focusing on bands. Atkins is also keen to develop a good sound system, something which he feels will set the good club apart.
The curious pairing of an international gentlemen’s club with a new bar and music venue has people intrigued. “It is funny to see everyone figure it out,” says Atkins.
If you visit R.A.O.B G.A.B at a daytime hour, you are likely to see some of the older members milling around the lower levels of the building, but by night the place certainly transforms into a promising addition to Melbourne’s back alley bar scene.
R.A.O.B G.A.B Buffalo Club
22 Sutherland Street, Melbourne