You may have noticed pre-pandemic that themed bars were becoming more of a thing – the result of businesses trying to lure younger, more house-bound generations less interested in drinking than older ones. Now, post-pandemic, they’re back with a vengeance, with two new conceptual venues arriving in Cardiff this month. Hannah Collins has more details.
Par 59 welcomes new Shuffleboard expansion
Nestled on St Mary Street, Gareth Bale’s Par 59 is undergoing a transformation: the unveiling of Shuffles, an upstairs bar and games room that aims to double the remit of its existing fusion of sports and nightlife.
Born from a partnership between Bale’s Elevens Group and the Depot, Par 59 took up residence in a locale that had remained vacant since 2016 (the former home of Liquid nightclub). Blending bar culture with casual dining (from in-house traders Dirty Birdie) and offering two nine-hole mini golf courses, Par 59’s success has since paved the way for expansion, with Par 59 Bristol opening its doors last December.
For its forthcoming Shuffles expansion upstairs, expect three new interactive shuffleboards, five state-of-the-art dartboards, and an additional bar area with booth seating. Nick Saunders, founder and managing director of the Depot and co-founder of Par 59, emphasised the team’s dedication to unveiling this second phase just in time for the festive season.
“With our brand-new interactive dartboards,” Saunders says, “Par 59 will be the place to be for an unforgettable blend of competition, camaraderie, and fun. Our supercharged shuffleboards are the first of their kind in Wales, blending the classic shuffleboard skill with the excitement of a video game, complete with engaging game modes displayed in real-time on digital screens, adding a tech-infused twist to the classic shuffleboard experience.” This expansion will double the city centre venue’s capacity, spread across 22,000 square feet.
Open from Fri 10 Nov. Info: here
Alcotraz – the ‘bar behind bars’
Drawing inspiration from Hollywood film and TV and not IRL incarceration experiences (one would hope…), Alcotraz (geddit?) offers an immersive drinking experience like no other. From the moment you don an orange jumpsuit – yes, there’s a dress code – to the very real metallic cells, Alcotraz claims to transcend the concept of mere-themed cocktail bars with a part-escape room, part-roleplaying escapade.
Guided by infamous bootleggers, your mission is to smuggle in the contraband spirits required to craft custom cocktails, which change each evening depending on the liquor you manage to sneak in and your personal preferences. Try and outsmart the authorities by smuggling your chosen spirits or recruit the unscrupulous guards as your clandestine allies, equipped with a covert system for concealing your contraband. Just watch out for the watchful Warden…
Created by Inventive Productions, Alcotraz isn’t a standalone adventure but a chapter in a series that chronicle the legend of the notorious bootlegger and outlaw, Mr Clyde Cassidy, with other venues in London, Liverpool, Brighton and Manchester. Its Cardiff addition, Cell Block Nine-One, is found in the city centre’s Brewery Quarter and will price its Tue-Thurs slots at £33.99, or £39.99 from Fri-Sun. Booking is essential.
Open from Fri 24 Nov. Info: here
3 of the best (other) themed bars in Cardiff
Board games: Chance & Counters
Not the only board game bar/cafe in the capital (the other being Scaredy Cats), but certainly the one with the best cauliflower wings in town. Chance & Counters is an upstairs oasis for tabletop gamers, whether you want a four-hour strategy experience or a quick party game over a pint.
High Street, Cardiff. Info: here
Video games: NQ64
Neon paint-splattered walls and a 90s golden age hip-hop soundtrack are your background for retro arcade machines, GTA, and getting in the forever queue for Guitar Hero at NQ64. Cocktails are, of course, themed around the likes of Mario and Sonic and taste like a liquid sugar rush.
St Mary Street, Cardiff. Info: here
A bit of everything: Boom Battle Bar
With enough variety for even the most divided of groups – axe throwing, shuffleboard, electric darts, American pool, ‘crazier’ golf, ping pong, and karaoke – Boom Battle Bar is a one-stop shop for competitive play over light bites and sharing jugs or buckets of booze.
Brewery Quarter, Cardiff. Info: here
words HANNAH COLLINS