First look: Canberra's new dedicated eighties bar 88mph

Jil Hogan
The neon-lit bar at 88mph.
The neon-lit bar at 88mph.  Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Get the shoulder pads ready - 88mph, Canberra's first dedicated eighties bar, is opening Friday night.

The owners know how to pull off a good theme - Ant Arena, Lorenzo Focarile and Dean Brown are the team behind Molly, Black Market and The Highball Express.

To find their new addition, look for the staircase of black tiles and a neon logo just across the courtyard from the former site of Molly in Hobart Place -or just follow the eighties tunes.

Look for the neon logo to find the bar - or listen out for the eighties tunes.
Look for the neon logo to find the bar - or listen out for the eighties tunes. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Setting the tone as you walk in is an equaliser mural, made up of VHS and cassette tapes, and some arcade games. Black tiles run the length of the venue, reflecting a long bar that's impressively lit with neon strip lights, which leads down to a light-up floor, and three hidden karaoke rooms at the back.

Arena said the response from the public since announcing their eighties-themed project has been, "absolutely unbelievable".

"I was surprised. We thought it was a thing, the 80s trends are coming back in fashion, music and things like that. But [the response has] been overwhelming," he said.

88mph owners Lorenzo Focarile and Antony Arena.
88mph owners Lorenzo Focarile and Antony Arena.  Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

"Our website's gone crazy, we've got a lot of bookings already for parties, 30ths, Christmas parties for companies. So we're pretty excited."

Behind the bar is a range of colourful cocktails, designed in house, served on tap, and loaded up with garnishes. There are also beers on tap, which is a first for one of Arena, Brown and Focarile's venues. And to eat there are pizzas, topped with classic flavours and cooked up in two pizza ovens down one end of the bar.

There are three karaoke rooms, ranging for groups from 10-22 people. Rooms can be pre-booked online or booked on the night if available, and drinks and food packages can be added onto bookings.


The karaoke list has been hand selected and is, of course, strictly eighties - "doesn't matter if you like rock or pop or a bit of hip hop, you can belt something out eighties-style," said Arena.

The bar name is a Back to the Future reference - the DeLorean time machine managed to get to the eighties by travelling at 88 miles per hour.

When designing their fourth bar, Arena said there was one main thing on their brief.

Two pizza ovens down one end of the bar cook up a classic range of toppings.
Two pizza ovens down one end of the bar cook up a classic range of toppings. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

"We want this to be Canberra's most fun night out - that's the idea. You come here, the cocktails are gonna be great, the environment's really cool, and the music - you can't listen to the eighties and not smile," he said.

"It's the place you come to sing and have fun. There are other places, including our other bars, that are very serious or we want to set a certain tone. This is just all fun."

And the fun is coming soon - the bar opens to the public from 6pm Friday November 3.

88mph, basement, 8-10 Hobart Place, Canberra.