I Spent a Night Touring Wellington's Worst-Rated Clubs

You had pokies to the left, cricket at the centre and "Summer of 69" all over.
December 4, 2016, 10:36pm
All images by the author

There aren't many things that are more satisfying than knowing that you went out and tried really hard to look good, feel good, and have a good time. You genuinely did. Although reaching this nirvana in New Zealand nightlife requires a significant amount of work.

In fact, every stage of your night is pretty much a gamble and when you're in Wellington, the stakes are that much higher. Should you lug a coat or risk hypothermia? Do you accept the Uber surcharge or should you hold out for another 20 minutes? Does getting loose mean literally LOOSE (read: earthquake)?

Is any of this even worth it or should you just cut your losses, get a three choice takeaway from J&M's and go home?

Then there's the single most influential factor in a great night out: where you should go. Even if all the other stars align, if you're not feeling Betty's and are keen to switch it up, where do you hit? It's the biggest gamble of all.

Luckily, just so you don't take any chances, Google will tell you which establishments are lit and which simply, are not. Based on said advice I went to Wellington's worst five nightclubs so you never, ever have to…because what's life without a little risk?


Rating: 3.5 stars

"Can we get a selfie with you guys?" - send help

In the Uber on the way to Residence, my friend told me Wellington nightlife had become a graveyard over the past year. This was sobering news before a night out, kind of like when Jay Sean and Nicki Minaj had that song about 2012 and you knew you were supposed to 'party like the end of the world' and yet you were reminded while partying that it could indeed be the end of the world. It was a pretty apocalyptic call.

Fun in the sun.

Yet if there was ever a bar you'd like to be LEAST at the end of the world, Residence was it. Some guys asked us for a selfie, which felt kind of similar to when you want a photo with a different species of dog you haven't seen before. As some of the only women there, we were the different species.


There seemed to be casino/sports bar/club-fusion vibes happening. You had pokies to the left, cricket at the centre and "Summer of 69" all over. It was some kind of sad conflict between a whole lot of different intentions for what Residence could be. A couple of people didn't have shoes.

Cavern Club

Rating: 3.4 stars

This was his "fun" pic

Walking downstairs into Cavern Club seemed promising. There was a shiny Elvis statue ushering you in and it struck me as a place where there might be a lot of boob jobs and proud boob job-owners asking you to feel them so you would know it really happened, they really got them done. This is kind of vibe was a bit of me, I thought.

Hard out here

Then I saw the pleather. Cavern Club is very, very American themed. There were guitars on the walls. There were more than several fedoras. There was a woman in a pig suit. There was a chance to win a drone with Jim Beam. It would be fair to say the average age was roughly 42, but hey, the bangers were actually pretty fresh.

A pretty LIT bathroom

Cavern Club's redeeming feature was its very luxurious bathrooms. There was a very theatrical lightbulbs-around-the-mirror situation and all the framed record covers you would expect in a 14 year-old girl's bedroom who's going through a '60s' phase. I liked it a whole lot. Not bad, Cavern Club, thank you for offering me a relatively good time and maybe even a drone.

El Horno

Rating: 3.2 stars

Planning to pop this in to a Facebook album called 'Bright Lights Big City.'

From what I understand El Horno is one of those places that everyone acknowledges is kind of bad but it's always going to be there for an all right time. Which means they're likely fiercely defensive of it, and any comment on El Horno must come with a *trigger warning*. At least that's what I gauged from the queue.

I lined up behind a guy with one of those man buns that are so thick and heavy they bypass trendy altogether and just end up giving off an 'I live in my parent's basement vibe'. It was a lot. At the other end of the scale there was a whole array of polo shirts featuring horses of different sizes. Essentially this culminated in a whole lot of white guys struggling to dance to justify their presence.

A sparsely decorated ivy wall.

The decor consisted of a lot of sparse fake ivy, the kind your mum might hire for a Tarzan-themed party. I tried to take a photo of some guys there who, after smiling for a photo, described me as "some bitch taking photos for a Facebook album." Rude, sure, but to be thought of as someone that would be invested in creating Facebook albums of nights out made me smile.

Just a couple of bros.

All in all, El Horno could be summed up by their choice of tune (Scissor Sisters' "Take Your Mama") as I walked in. Just as no Scissor Sisters song should play past it's nostalgia capacity of one minute, El Horno should be treated for a good time not a long time.

Red Square

Rating: 3.1 stars

Do I though?

Where to fucking begin. What a mess. Not only did we queue outside this very Eyes Wide Shut venue for far too long (read: red carpet and chandeliers) but I learnt the eyebrow piercing is alive and well outside of 2002. Someone started up a "R-N-V" chant. That's what we were dealing with.

A LOT is happening over here SOS.

The dress code was misguided Abercrombie meets sleeveless denim jackets (please leave those where they belong at Homegrown 2012!) and the drink was Vodka Redbull. In fact it seemed like one of those places that if you didn't order a Vodka Redbull or Jägerbomb, you should probably leave because you're a pussy. You just knew if you asked anyone what would be their drug of choice, they'd reply with the total "bro"-certainty: "Nos."

A guy dabbed his way past me as I stood at the entrance, completely overwhelmed by the spectacle inside. The crowd seemed to be made up of half commerce students, half tradies down for a night of debauchery from Lower Hutt. There was a heavily-guarded VIP booth, without any visible VIPs, which honestly seemed to defeat the purpose of a VIP booth.

Green light and mirrored walls. Wow, what a combo.

I walked into a couple aggressively making out as I made my way onto the stage to survey the scene. You might never think to drum and bass remix Bass Hunter and Linkin' Park, but this DJ did. Then again, at least there was a DJ. In my haste to get out I tripped over the red carpet. I was ushered out.


Rating: 2.7 stars


By the time I reached Minibar, I was a shell of my former self. I can imagine if Minibar was a club photograph it would be that one of watermarked clarity where you look like a serial killer with a body complex which would haunt you for the following week because no matter how hard you try to un-tag because Kyle (who you're not even that close with who does he think he is?) is never going to stop commenting on that photo, so that it keeps popping up on the newsfeed and everyone is reminded you're a monster. There were drums on the ceiling and cocktail of the month was called "Tequiling Me Softly." That's Minibar.

Tequiling me softly with 'My Sharona.'

Minibar was home to more snapbacks than I'd ever seen in one place, mostly because every guy in there was either 12 or 54. There was a dude with a pounamu and one of those Eurotrash diamante earrings watching Top Gun play above the bar with subtitles—a curious clash of cultures. I ended up watching a video of Adriana Lima on Instagram rather than dance to "My Sharona."

Yeezy for Prez.

Judging by many a barefoot resident and a bustling Courtney Place, it's clear that Wellingtonians clearly can't be tamed when it comes to going out. It's a university town after all, there's no temperature or natural disaster or number of eyebrow piercings that will keep them in.

There seemed to be an understanding that, one way or another, they're going to make the best of it…and isn't that what town is about? Regardless of the drama or general admin that it takes to you to get out there, if you're committed to a good time then there's no risk of a bad one.

If you're still down to gamble, well, there's always Residence.

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