A moment of silence, please. Melbourne's spookiest, rollercoaster-having theatre restaurant Dracula's has announced on Facebook that it will close on December 23, after 37 years of schlock-horror cabaret. Dinner theatre fans are reeling. I count myself as one.
Dracula's was founded by Tikki and John Newman, the duo responsible for Australia's first theatre restaurant on Exhibition Street. Inspired by The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the duo launched Dracula's in 1980 in Drewery Lane. The sexy Halloween pitch proved so successful, they moved it to the larger Victoria Street location in 1990 where it's been rattling audiences ever since.
I last went in 2014, after I'd pitched a story about Melbourne's theatre restaurants and immediately regretted it. In that month I endured 16 hours of dad jokes, lurid cocktails, steaks in all the shades of brown and the company of a disgruntled theatre critic who did not want to do the story.
I can honestly say, having sat through a high-kicking sea captain in a false beard at the Titanic restaurant, and the fortune teller and pumpkin soup at Witches in Britches, that Dracula's was far from the worst of the bunch.
It's certainly Melbourne's only restaurant where you enter via a rollercoaster. Sure, the food (at the time) was average. Canapes translated as crackers topped with chopped chicken and mayonnaise. Ghouls circulated offering syringes filled with an alcoholic jelly a la regrettable house parties from your uni days. Once in the theatre, mains were things like lamb fillet or poached salmon served over heaped mounds of mash. It might have resembled the food of country high school graduations, but it was hot, hefty and inoffensive.
Inoffensive is really the best you can hope for at theatre restaurants – they just need to get a pass. Dracula's does, and then packages it in the best-worst haunted house you've ever seen, with a show that is surprisingly good. Back then they were showing Bloodbath and it was two hours of impressive acrobatics, puppetry, cabaret and special effects.
The drinks were enormous, and green. Fuelled by fishbowls of them and the impossibility of taking anything seriously, the crowd loved it. I had absolutely nothing left to say my date, having already clocked 12 hours with him, and I did not have a horrible time. It was every bit as trashtastic as I'd dreamed, with a wig on top.
According to the Facebook announcement, the last fishbowl will be served on December 23.
You should go. It will be a long time before Melbourne is brave enough to be this silly again.
Dracula's closes on December 23. The Dracula's Gold Coast and Dracula's Haunted House in Surfers Paradise will remain open. 100 Victoria Street, Carlton, draculas.com.au.