Storyville – Lonsdale Street’s latest bar – is themed around fantasy and fairytales. In the wrong hands, it’s a concept that could easily come across as budget-theme-park. Happily, husband-and-wife duo Steve Thomas and Keti Kezunovic (29th Apartment, Pawn & Co) have a strong pedigree in extravagant and conceptually ambitious venues. The result is more Brothers Grimm than Disney.
“When you’re coming up with concepts from fairytales it’s easy to go down that childlike-path,” says Thomas. His challenge was to evoke “that story vibe and that escapism that have you as a child” – in the form of something adult.
The solution lay in building a place that didn’t resemble the Melbourne that exists outside its doors, in any way. If it worked for puzzle rooms…
“It’s a concept that revolves around gateways into an alternate world, which is why people socialise and drink – for an escape from their everyday lives,” Thomas says.
To realise their make-believe haven, Kezunovic and Thomas enlisted the help of long-time collaborator Josh Lefers, who commissioned two companies specialising in film-set construction (A Blanck Canvas, Onset Arts) to create the oversized props and structures that dominate Storyville’s two floors.
The space is split into different sections, each with its own mood and design. On the first floor you’ll find two of those. The Mushroom Palace is a softly-lit cocktail lounge with elaborate luminescent mushrooms hanging overhead. The tallest mushroom lives behind the bar, and is composed of nine separate sections – each one taking more than 18 hours to create with a 3D printer.
On the same floor is the Bird Cage, designed for small groups, and with bottle service in mind. Upstairs things get a bit louder. A large Narnia-themed section has an imposing wooden bar and a pounding dancefloor. The Library, meanwhile, features a long wall of supersized book spines. “It’s about fairytales but also literature in general,” says Kezunovic of the bar. “So it’s kind of like Cinderella meets Hunter S. Thompson.”
The cocktail menu – presented in the form of a classic storybook – takes cues from the literary fantasy world. A Willy Wonka-inspired cocktail comes with a golden ticket and the chance to win a surprise gift. Through the Looking Glass is a boozy dry-ice tea concoction.
“What we want people to do is to let go and choose their own adventure when they’re in here,” says Kezunovic. “The goal is for you to come here and create your own stories.”
185 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
(03) 9993 9034
Monday to Thursday 4pm–3am
Saturday and Sunday 6pm–late
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