Melbourne’s Best Bars – Precinct Hotel – Review

I was bubbling with excitement as the train pulled into Richmond Station and revealed, for the very first time, The Precinct Hotel. Unlike most bars in town, none of my friends or I had ever been there before, and so I only had only a loose collection of words to go by: ‘dance floor’, ‘big bouncers’ and ‘expensive’. As I handed the (not overly large) bouncer my I.D, I wondered if my experience of The Precinct would mimic that illusive feeling of a fantastic night out, or that sour disappointment of my wallet and night wasted. By the time I had left, I had experienced a bit of both. 

The Good
Firstly, one cannot describe the Precinct Hotel without mentioning it’s location – it is, in a word, perfect. A stone’s throw from Richmond station and short tram ride to the city, getting to the Precinct and then stumbling home is painless. Caution however: those looking for some post-drinking fast food will have a slight hike ahead of them. B.Y.O. Big Macs. 

The Precinct tends to service a mid-twenties crowd, with a great split between the genders. Its draws quite a sizable crowd on a Friday night, and the warm atmosphere makes this a great place to pick up. 

The Precinct also boasts one of the best outdoor sections I’ve yet come across. Half the outdoor section has enclosed roofing and it is heated and seated for great conversation. The other half is for smokers, but non-smokers will be happy to know that, due to great circulation, the smell of cigarettes is almost non-existent. Coupled with the fully staffed bar, the outdoor section is easily the best part of the Precinct. 

The Bad
Things tend to go downhill from there. Though the main/middle section is not terrible, there are two glaring faults: the wait for drinks and the overcrowding. You’ll find both these problems at most bars, but a ten minute wait for drinks is pretty rough and rather strange, considering that the bar itself stretches the entire length of the room. Dear Precinct, stop being cheap-skates and hire some more bar staff! Given what I paid for your drinks I’m sure you’re not taking too much of a loss. 

As for the overcrowding, its only an issue because the main section is packed with tables and chairs… that nobody was using. For those looking to sit down, the outdoor section has ample seating. Precinct, cut the chairs and lets us breath! 

The Ugly
Carpet, wood, lino…just some of the floorings that the Precinct could’ve used for it’s dance floor instead of concrete. The Precinct Hotel’s website reliably informs me that the hotel has existed since 1926, which means nobody, in 84 years, has thought to change the dance floor. What gives? Not only is it uncomfortable to dance on, but concrete and glass tend to have a rather uneasy relationship. Ladies, it’s not a choice of flats or heels – combat boots are a requirement for the Precinct’s dance floor. 

As for the music, Friday nigh’s DJ Johno, whose name is as creative as his setlist, got the ladies to the floor and got the broken glass jumping. He was okay, but he didn’t really seem to do much apart from pressing ‘Play’. More enthusiasm, please. 

DJ Johno’s set was preceded by a house band whose biggest failing was that they were, in fact, a house band. I’m not saying they were terrible, but compared to Ke$ ha’s recount of the morning she woke up feeling like a 40 year old African-American rapper, house bands never quite seem to get a place moving. 

Despite these criticisms, I think you should check out The Precinct Hotel. The outdoor section is pretty fantastic and, unlike me, maybe you’re able to withstand the crappy dance floor for the sake of some good old fashioned grinding. Though it’s a sickening cliche, the Precinct Hotel has a little something for everybody.

By Tom O’byrne for Sydney Bars and Melbourne Bars

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