Bars and Nightclubs
Northbridge, Perth

Universal Bar

221 William St, Northbridge, WA
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Inspired by the atmospheric jazz and blues bars of New Orleans, Universal Bar has built an outstanding reputation in the industry for offering not only the finest quality food and beverages, but exceptional live music every night of the week. Throughout the years, Universal Bar has been a popular venue for National and International musical touring acts, and has consistently supported the Western Australian music industry. And it is the consistency of the music, service, and guaranteed great night out that has the patrons continuing to return each week. With a member data base of over 2, 500, it’s clear that Universal Bar is a favourite hot spot amongst Perth music lovers!

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Universal Bar Review

Review By Cassandra Auzins

Northbridge is renowned for being a haven to recently legalized teenagers looking to obliterate themselves on the various dance floors of the suburb. It’s not known for having a place where people looking for good music and well-crafted drinks can go. That is, until you come across Universal Bar.

Nestled between wine bar The Grapeskin and a Westpac ATM, the tantalizing outdoor sitting area and inviting lack of line makes a lot of people passing by from local backpacker hostels double back to go inside. Myself and two friends arrived at an early hour (8:30pm) and easily stepped inside without having to deal with getting our ID photos taken like most clubs and bars in Northbridge have adopted. Security was friendly and helpful, and seemed to know everyone walking through the door, giving the place a trusting and relaxed atmosphere.

The bar at the front and at the back are well lit, with lighting dying off to just well-placed signs and reflections from mirrors as you hit the seating and dance floor areas. This gives people the ability to see what they’re doing at the bar, but doesn’t invade the intimate moments shared elsewhere. The band was still setting up when we arrived, but the blend of Top 40 and old classics that was playing over the sound system added to the chilled atmosphere.

The bar staff were attentive and never left you waiting, and it was good to see managers helping out instead of hiding in their office as many are prone to doing at other venues. And all are of calibre too; assistant manager Dan is an old hand in the industry (and a former co-worker of myself, none the less) and quite happily recounted the series of awards the venue and its staff (including venue manager Brett) have under their belt. In fact, written on the chalkboard above the kitchen was a congratulatory message to bartender Jason for taking out the AHA Bartender of the Year award in 2009 and 2010. The staff know their stuff, and it showed as I watched a cocktail being made nearby with both speed and flair.

After 11pm and deep into the soulful groove of the band Nightmoves, the upstairs terrace bar ignites, inviting guests to enjoy the atmosphere as well as the outdoors with its open-roofed area. Drinks at Universal are well priced with a Corona sitting just under $10 and the extensive cocktail menu ranging between $10-$18. Smirnoff premixes aren’t found on premises, with management preferring that guests enjoy drinks how they’re meant to be and not out of a packaged bottle. It’s a fantastic philosophy that should be upheld more, I think.

Nestled inside its own little world, Universal Bar has live bands on almost every night its open and free entry at all times. It’s extremely inviting, which means that after midnight there is a constant line outside. But if you spend just $10 and treat yourself to a V.I.P card, you can skip the line and enjoy added bonuses of drink discounts and attendance to exclusive events. I’ve been to functions at Universal Bar before and have heard nothing but compliments from those hosting them, with staff always attentive and happy to cater just about anything thrown at them.

Having known Universal Bar ever since I started working in Northbridge in 2007, at first it appealed to me only as a starting point for nights out, but since taking the time to stop and smell the proverbial roses, I have come to see that it holds a place in its own right in this chaotic suburb. Classy but relaxed and attentively run without boxing itself in with a wall full of rules, Universal Bar is a great place for anyone of any age to enjoy a drink and dance the night away without having to deal with the hassles of pretention or the worries of not fitting in.

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A 2nd Universal Bar Review

Review By Hamish Hastie

A Friday or Saturday night out is not complete without the obligatory pre-drink ritual. The centrally located Universal Bar delivers just about the best way to kick-off the weekend – cool tunes from decades gone by, strong and tasty drinks and a warm up dance to get the blood pumping.

I’ll be the first to admit, the place is predominately full of middle agers finishing work/going out to feel young again, but I was also surprised to see a large contingent of Gen Y’s taking advantage of what the place does best, live music and drinks. The stigma that this place is for cougars looking to find Husband v 2.0 and is truly unfounded (you will find a few cats purring in the corner though). Everyone is friendly and seeking a chilled evening with small groups of close friends, as well as a few characters that are looking for new ones. It’s a nice change to the meathead, fake tan stains on society’s underwear that you’ll encounter at other establishments.

The music here is an essential part of the vibe. It’s perfect for those who like to be serenaded by jazzed up, familiar tunes or if you just like what live music does to a place. It’s not my thing personally but I enjoyed it because it was a warm up for my ears before I went to a louder club. As they say; ‘variety is the spice of life’, it’s nice to feed your ears something different every once and a while.

The place looks like its styled after a jazz bar. It’s homey and everything just seems familiar when you walk in, even if you’ve never been there before. There are no wacky statues or images of burning women on the screens or anything else that is just there to assault your senses. You go in, get a drink, get a seat or spot on the dance floor and relax. This is easy to do with the huge bar at the front of the place and specialised cocktail bar at the back. There is also a terrace bar but as I understand it’s often hired out for functions.

The camera identification ‘thingy’ before you walk in the club is a bit daunting when you’re only walking into a bar (but unfortunately necessary). I felt sorry for the older ladies and gentlemen ahead of us in the quick line that were unfamiliar with the process, you could see they were uncomfortable as I’m sure back in the day there were no need for such precautions. Apart from that, the free entry will see you buying the slightly expensive but famously strong drinks in no time. I suggest you check out the cocktail bar as well. Universal Bar has won many awards for their range of cocktails and it’s no wonder why, the menu is extensive and impressive.

If you get there early enough you can also grab a bite to eat (the kitchen closes as the crowd’s hunger turns to thirst). I’ve been here for lunch on many occasions and always struggle choosing something, it’s all tasty! Stay a little or stay a while, this place isn’t just for the oldies. I was surprised at the amount of energy around and just who was there getting their groove on. Start out a night in Northbridge or the city at the Universal Bar and be surprised for yourself!

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