Bars, Pubs and Clubs » Brisbane

Brisbane Nightlife: Fortitude Valley

Having spent the better part of my drinking life living in Brisbane I’m acutely aware of the phenomenon that is the Fortitude Valley. One of Australia’s largest party and nightclub districts, the valley has around 60,000 people there every Friday and Saturday night. This makes the place a pretty impressive experience, there are people from all walks of life, pubs and clubs catering to every different subculture and musical interest, a shitload of police and a huge amount of street food-vendors, but it isn’t perfect, in fact far from it.

The problem is the experience so often isn’t good. There aren’t enough bars, pubs and clubs (or maybe there are too many people), there are huge line-ups for venues, most places are already over-crowded and there are a huge number of people on the street supposedly walking between venues. Add to this a lot of alcohol, a 3am curfew, a limited number of taxis and a mesh of cultures and the product is the violence and unrest that the Brisbane City Council and Queensland Police are acutely aware of.

I’m certain that all levels of government and police are trying to solve these problems in their own way, more police on the streets, tighter licensing monitoring, modifying terms of licenses, more licenses, less licenses, more cabs, more cab ranks etcetera, etcetera. Yet as the bandaids pile up, the solution becomes more and more clear to me and while attempting to model the nightlife on another city seems like a fools errand, I think that is the solution, but not quite the same as you are expecting.

Reducing the average size of the licenses and increasing the number of licenses makes sense and seems to work to some extent in Melbourne, yet in the densely populated areas such as King St and Prahran, violence and chaos still abound. However, the areas where there is one or 2 small bars per block are quiet and civil. The sheer size of the Melbourne CBD creates vast number of nooks and crannies for these to thrive.

Reducing the crowd density per venue is obvious, but I believe the real solution is reducing the overall density of punters. Pushing the geographical boundaries of the valley out would increase the square metres of street the police would need to patrol and almost certainly incense the residents of the surrounding suburbs, but at what price do we put on the violence and unrest. There are a number of areas that this shift could move towards.

  1. Remove the separation of “city” and “valley”, encouraging bars to reside at the southern end of Wickham St.
  2. Encourage bars to open along the waterfront between the Valley and the Eagle St pier
  3. Allowing bars to operate until 3 am along James St
  4. Managing the red light district stigma associated with the northern end of Brunswick St thus encouraging a higher quality of venue to open in that area

The Royal Exchange, Toowong

In every town, there are drinking icons, places that everyone knows about, everyone has had their fair share of schooners at, and everyone will have great memories of in 35 years when they can’t drink anymore cause their kidneys give them grief. Of all the pubs in and around Brisbane the RE in Toowong may not be the swankiest, the coolest, or even the friendliest but it’s probably the best local. It’s one of those places that you could walk into blind folded and just the smell of it draws a picture. It just so happens in this case it’s the smell of spew, nonetheless it makes you feel like home, or you are at your local.

Let’s be fair about it, there is nothing that jumps out and takes you about this pub, the beer garden is big, complete with the requisite covers band 4 nights of the week playing more than it’s share of Jimmy Barnes, Powderfinger and Hunters & Collectors. The band has to stop playing at about 11 every night, cause the people that live nearby started complaining about the noise, even though there has been a band playing there since before they were born. Though, it’s not the band that the punters come to see, in fact they aren’t coming to see anything in particular except the beer. That’s the thing about uni students, all they need is a a few tables, a shitty band and cheap cold beer and they’ll sit and talk shit anywhere.

The public bar has about 42 flat screens within 4 metres of each other not to mention a couple of old blokes betting on the dogs that look like they’ve been there since it opened (1876), the dogs haven’t been there since then, the blokes have. The upstairs has a couple of pool tables and a bar, the bar is only open when they’ve got some reason which isn’t really that often. That being said, the upstairs has a nice little deck overlooking the stage.

As I’ve mentioned it’s not the coolest place, but it does have a webcam, so head on over to the website and check it out for yourself.