Most bars stay the same. Day after day, week after week, they’re static. But there’s a basement bar – beneath your feet as you stomp down Flinders Lane – that changes all the time. Jack and Bones is Melbourne’s only Hawaiian dive bar and probably one of the only places that will be a little bit different every time you go.
Manager Tom is the man behind the bar’s ever-changing appearance. Owner Jack got him on board two years ago, charged with the task of transforming a dilapidated storage space into an awesome bar. Tom, who had plenty of experience in hospitality but no history with renovation, dove into the task. “I’ve spent two years doing it up bit by bit. Customers come back each week and there’s something new. It’s not finished yet and it won’t ever be finished,” Tom Says.
Jack and Bones are open from Thursday-Saturday, so from Thursday night onwards, Tom is in bartending mode, mixing countless cocktails and running a ship that’s all about making people feel welcome. But Tuesday and Wednesday are dedicated to bar transformation.
Over the past two years, Tom has hand-sanded through the high-shine varnish of every wood surface in the space to give it a lived-in look. He’s torn out a wraparound lounge couch and over time, replaced it with an eclectic mix of comfy vintage couches. He’s slowly decked the walls with Sailor Jerry memorabilia, which is the bar’s spirit spirit. And this year, one of Tom’s long-time dreams for the bar is coming true – a classic Americana-style mural covering a wall that runs the entire length of Jack and Bones.
“I’ve spent two years doing it up bit by bit”
With so much time and labour put into Jack and Bones, it’s no wonder Tom feels a great sense of ownership over it. And what’s really special about that sense of ownership is the way it shapes the experience people have when they head there for a drink. The bar has a few non-negotiables when it comes to customer experience: they want everyone to feel welcome, have fun and feel safe.
Tom says that the Jack and Bones crowd is mixed, which is just how he likes it.
“I want everyone to feel welcome,” he says. “I make sure the staff are welcoming to absolutely everyone. And everyone enjoys it. We’ve never had a complaint.”
When you head downstairs through the door at 107 Flinders Lane or the side door off ACDC Lane, you’ll pick up on this warm vibe immediately. And once you’ve settled in and peeked at the menu, you’ll probably realise that you could be there awhile.
For beer buffs, Jack and Bones is an oasis. They have over 40 beers, many of which are craft labels imported from all over the world. They’re also passionate about boutique spirits and Tom boasts that their rum selection is the best around. The team is always happy to spend time with each customer, helping them pick the perfect beer, boutique rum or whatever it is the customer’s after. In contrast to the aloof style of customer service you may come across elsewhere, it’s never “every man for himself” at Jack and Bones.
As for cocktails, we spend a lot of time talking to Tom about espresso martinis because, well, they’re the closest thing we have to heaven on Earth – particularly if it’s an espresso martini from Jack and Bones. We ask if they’re the best espresso martinis on Flinders Lane but it turns out they might be one of the best espresso martinis in Australia.
“I want everyone to feel welcome”
“We’ve had countless people tell us they are the best espresso martinis they’ve ever had. We had a guy come in, he used to be an espresso martini judge, he came in and had ours and said it’s definitely up there in the top five he’s had,” He explains.
Also on the cocktail front, people love Jack and Bones’ fishbowl cocktails. They’re big, garnished to the nines and made to share, with straws sticking out every which way. If you’re looking for something fun to do after dinner on Flinders Lane, look no further than a Jack and Bones fishbowl with a few friends.
True to its dynamic nature, Jack and Bones’ specials are ever-changing. From brilliant food and drink bundles to buckets of mixed craft beers, the specials encourage you to settle in, make yourself at home and try something new. The bar has a DJ doing his or her thing Friday and Saturday nights, but you’ll always be able to have a conversation over drinks and snacks without screaming.
Every week, Jack and Bones looks a little bit different. It’s become a very cool space, modelled after the dive bars of the Hawaiian Islands. But Tom stresses that despite the hours of labour he’s put into the renovation, it’s not what defines the bar. “I don’t want anyone feeling out of place – everything on the walls is just a bit of decoration, what really matters is that all are welcome!”
107 Flinders Lane Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 3000 | 0481 201 380
OPEN Thurs – Sat 5pm – 1am | Sun – Wed CLOSED