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88mph AKA 80s heaven now open

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As a child of the 90s, I never got to experience the colour, attitude and hair (so much hair) of the 80s. 

But spending the last couple of years in the HerCanberra office with three women who lived through the thick of it have convinced me that I definitely missed out on something.

Not to fear though, the 80s are here in the form of underground bar 88mph (yes, that’s a Back to the Future reference) which opens tonight from 6pm in Hobart Place.

When we first spoke to co-owner Ant Arena about 88mph in September, he told us that his team’s newest venture would be a combination of their love for the decade of shoulder pads and power ballads and the public’s desire for a bar that was fun, casual and didn’t take itself too seriously.


Now, having snuck a peek inside before tonight’s grand opening, I can safely say that yes, HerCanberra colleagues, I did miss out on something.

Because Ant and his business partners Lorenzo Focarile and Dean Brown never do things by halves (see: Highball Express, Black Market and the much missed Molly) 88mph is an immersive experience before you even walk in the door (seriously, see their website to get in the mood).

a team gif

From menus encased in VHS boxes (with the corresponding tapes decorating the entry wall) to no-frills pizza and frozen cocktails, Ant and his team are well on their way to providing Canberra’s most fun night out. Which is completely the point.

“We’re so excited,” says Ant. “We’re really happy with how it’s turned out. There’s a great vibe to it – something new for Canberra.”

“The whole premise of this place was the make it as fun as possible,” adds Lorenzo. “The bright lights, reflective surfaces, the light up floor – karaoke. We’ve [done] serious bars before – this is the chilled out bar.”

With the world’s current 80s nostalgia obsession (Stranger Things, the Dallas reboot, Glow, IT etc) I feel its safe to say that 88mph’s level of kitsch will be well received – especially the pinball machines and original Street Fighter arcade game. The addition of these adds an extra layer of fun to the venue (as well as an excuse to stay a little longer) – as do the karaoke rooms.


“We’ve already got a bucket load of bookings,” says Dean. But not to fear – if you haven’t planned ahead and think that a spot of karaoke might suit your night, you can book free rooms on the spot.

“We had a test of [the rooms] yesterday and they’re pretty cool. They’re all acoustically sealed so you can barely hear any sound from outside and then once you’re singing, that’s it.”

As we previously wrote, the karaoke is 100% 80s music only, however with hundreds of songs to choose from, you’re sure to find a favourite. May we suggest Total Eclipse of the Heart or Danger Zone?

As for Ant, he says his rendition of John Cougar Mellencamp was “the least worst” of the bunch and that he “can’t wait until they got some good singers in”.

If you’re one of those good singers (of if you’re not) and the thought of you belting out ballads with your boss tickles your fancy, 88mph are also quickly filling up for Christmas and end of year functions, so get your (rainbow glitter) skates on!

the rock gif

the essentials 

What: 88mph
Where: Hobart Place, City West
When: Opening tonight, Friday 3 November from 6pm
More information: facebook.com/88mphbar + 88mph.bar

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