Nightclub event:
The Retro Bristol Arms

Reviewed by:
On May 25, 2014
Last modified:March 17, 2016


One of the last venues dedicated to playing "Retro" music from 10+ years ago. The weekly themes give people a reason to dress up and lose their inhibitions. It makes for an excellent night for those who haven't been out in a while. Music is great but some music selection and mixing is questionable. Not quite ideal for the younger folk looking to get trashed as the bar service is horrendous.

A birthday! At the Retro. It’s been a long time since I’ve been. Let’s go!!

Saturdays @ The Retro Bristol Arms Hotel

This review incorporates elements from tonight and a prior visit in 2010.

Assessment Time:
11:30ish – 02:30AM

Opening Hours:
Open during the day until 3:00AM (Possibly later?)

Lockout: 1:30AM at time of writing

Address: 51 Sussex St , Sydney

Venue Website:

Promoter Website: Self Promoted by the venue

Occurrence: Every Saturday are the themed nights, Friday does not seem to have themed nights

Dress Code / Door Policy: Anything goes. Half the crowd wear casual while the other half, are wearing costumes and outfits. It’s pretty cool.

Entry Fee / Cover Charge: Free if you dress up in the weekly them. $20 Standard cover charge between 9PM and midnightDiscount on guestlist. Tonight’s theme is bikies or something. Some of our friends are of those who are like ‘I hate dressing up’ types – you know exactly EXACTLY what kind of friends I am talking about. They rather cough up money than dress up. The closest phobia is masqueradeaphobia. No line upon lining up

Guestlist: See website.

Inside: The retro is attracting a smaller crowd as opposed to a few years ago. Not sure if due to lockout laws or due to other factors. The ground floor is no longer a dance area.

Level 1
Walk inside to directly enter the stairway upstairs to level 1. It’s the  80’s and 90’s level, split into two areas – Chill out lounge room on the right – where there are sofas a pool table and small bar. On the left is the dancefloor area where there is a bar on the left, a the DJ in the far middle centre, with a podium in front to hold about 10 people. There are sofas spotted to the right along the walls and a private taped off VIP area to the left corner. The middle is dancefloor space dotted with the holding colums.

Level 2
Up to the top 90’s level where you walk through to a carpeted dancefloor room. Bar and VIP/sofas to the right. DJ on the far left corner. Coloured flourescent retro lights flash in sequence. Two podiums on the left to hold about 8 people each, and dancefloor space left to hold about 100-150 people. There are also some beer pong tables.

Cloak Room: Couldn’t find it.

Bar Prices / Line: Didn’t drink tonight. Line at the bar was quite the wait – it’s tragic on level 1 as there is like 1 bartender – the wait is 10-15 minutes. Level 2 there is 2 or 3 bartenders with the wait being approx 5 minutes.

Unknown – Level 2 was pretty good, friendly, joking and mixed well
Level 1 DJ was pretty bad. Played songs in their entirety and quite a few songs even I didn’t know and/or the crowd didn’t seemingly were into. It was truly retro.

Music Style:
Level 1 was dedicated to 80’s and 90’s retro dance and rock music, while the top level was dedicated to 2000’s retro rnb, pop, whatever was well known.

Wildly varied ages from early 20’s to probable late 40’s and 50’s. However dominantly were people in their 30’s as evident by the birthdays and hen’s nights. Dominantly white crowd of Ausises and Euros. Only some Asians were here.
Beer pong competition on level 2

Level 1 1980’s retro was a bit dirty and crowded, but people were enjoying themselves. Like an older version of a backpackers bar. It’s quite a happy vibe with happy tunes playing. Much the same can be said for the top level, but not as ‘happy’ as the middle level. Upstairs was more of a dancing atmosphere due to the younger crowd, smoke machines and less lightingIt is really the upper levels that are the highlight of the venue, and where most of my night was spent.


Beer Pong!

So apparently there is an official Australian Beer Pong Association or something haha. Entry to this competition was $20 for a team of two (incl. two free drinks). I had to do it. My partner and I ended up in the semi-finals, and sadly lost in a nailbiting finish when we only had one more cup to finish. The sad thing was it was sober beer pong as the cups were just full of water. Some dude at the time time stood right next to my partner, leaned on her and said “oh sorry i tripped”. So not suss at all. Had to cockblock, because we were trying to win. He was later seen a hugging his friend, which was just wrong. Grow a pair of pairs.

(2010) Chalkboard Drawings 101
In the 80’s level, there exists a wall painted with special chalkboard paint. There’s a bag of chalk so you can pretty much graffiti as you want on the public board. It’s just full of messages and cutting edge wit and profanity. I’ve just added to the collection by scrubbing “James was here” (very original right), and a small picture of Homer Simpsons head.

A short man dressed casual clothes as though he is from Campbelltown looks onwards and tells me “Hey, let me draw you a picture!”. Ok, sure. I hand him my piece of chalk but realise its very short – about 1cm of it is left. I told him that there was heaps more chalk in the bag, but he ignored me and began to draw on the chalkboard, struggling not only due to the short nature of the piece of chalk, but also because he was short. By the end of it he has drawn something akin to this:

Guess what? yes. It's you.

Guess what? yes. It’s you.

Short Man: “Do you know what it is? Guess!”
James: I have no idea. A flying amoeba?
Short Man: “No! That’s an egg (points to the right hand side of the drawing), and (pointing now to the left) that’s a sperm, and those are heaps of sperm breaking into the egg! HAAHAHA”
You have to be messing with me right? That’s the act of fertilisation?
James: Oh, really?
Short Man: “You don’t see it?”
James: Kinda. (but not really)
Meanwhile my friend is watching on the entire time – he has no idea what is going on as the music masks our conversation. The Short Man gets back to the board and adds a few features to the drawing. Eventually the final form of the masterpiece is assembled:

The birds and the bees

The birds and the bees

Short man: “Look!! It’s really a sperm now! See? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA”
I am truly amazed about this piece of timeless art. The 21st century da Vinci has arrived, and this was his Mona Lisa. He was nuts.
James: Haha.. It’s an angry sperm, isn’t it?
Short Man: “Yes, it is!”
James: Yup, pretty angry!
We pretty much had a minute of complimenting how good his drawing was. It was pretty hard to refrain from laughing, but I managed to keep my cool.

(2010) Women of the 80’s
Dancing alone. Old lady came up and danced with me. Hooray! She was easily late 40’s early 50’s. She was also drunk, with her glass of “sparkling wine” in her hand. Maybe if I was 30 years older.. but not now.. Well, no longer will I go down that path again.
We met a girl. It was her first time out in 8 years!!! Holy Baloney. I was underage back then. Wait.. no I wasn’t. I wasn’t clubbing back then though.. so that is ages ago. She needed to have a break from taking care of her two kids and blah blah blah blah blah.

(2010) I felt kind of depressed… and OLD.
Everyone is having fun, but now I have gotten to that point in life. You know, my dear older reader segment, that kind of point in life. Where you and the entire floor of 25+ year olds know the words to all the “retro” songs that are playing in the club, while the younger folk have no idea what you are singing. Yes.. exactly. Ace of base, Michael Jackson, Backstreet Boys.. oh the memories depress me. Despite me probably being one of the young ones here and looking like a teenager.. it was for me, I felt, the unofficial welcome to the oldies club. Never come here if you are still in your 20s in case you know all the songs.

My friend lost his jacket in the top level. Looked around but couldn’t find it. Some lucky person has it now. We left shortly after the top level died completely.

Always a safe bet if you are in costume and want to go clubbing where you are made to feel welcome. Much better if you are familiar with music from the various decades.

(2010) Saturdays @ The Retro Bristol Arms Hotel

2014 – 6.5/10

2010- 7.5/10

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