February 27, 2016, was a sad day. The illustrious Bar Century poured its last beers, hosted its final night of debauchery, and let the concluding vodka cranberries mush into the floor. While researching this article, I ask several people how they would describe the best-loved dive bar of Sydney. Some common terms emerged: sticky, dodgy, desperate, and carpeted.
The carpet at Bar Century was truly foul too — slimy and glutinous from millions of spilled drinks, vomit and tears — your feet squelching as you walked around. The only thing stickier than the floor was the bar itself, which was perennially caked in a fine film of grime. The toilets at Bar Century were a gateway to hell, like something out of Trainspotting. Bar Century was decidedly disgusting, but it was very cheap and very cheerful, and one of the busiest spots on George Street on any given night.
When it closed its doors last year, the youth of Sydney lost a dear friend. It’s hard to say why it closed. Was it because of its ludicrously cheap prices? The terrible smell? Was it because it was a wretched hive of scum and villainy? Nobody really knows. All I know is that the loss of Bar Century hit Sydney hard. But fret not! Like a phoenix, Bar Century has arisen — reopened, with a fresh new name: Century Bar. I don’t know what the point of swapping the two words around was — they’re not fooling anyone.
But the subtle name change indicates the direction Bar Century 2.0 has moved in. It’s a very different beast now. The old Bar Century felt like it was trapped in the 90s — the new Bar Century feels trapped in the 30s. It’s got that sort of faux-retro feel — lots of moody lighting and polished brass. The bar itself is clean, cleaner than most bars in Sydney. They even do proper cocktails now! Yes, Century Bar is decidedly inoffensive. And I find that offensive.
The new Bar Century, while an objectively politer experience than the old Bar Century, lacks the rough charm and homeliness that made the original so popular. It now feels like just one of so many bars in the city. It’s just like Star Bar now, and Star Bar was just a sad man’s Bar Century. In any case, Bar Century has lost its soul. Sequels are always worse than the original, I’m afraid.