A few years ago, the drinking scene in Johor was practically nonexistent, limited to a couple of small clubs and a few old men hanging out at the local kopitiam. However, things have certainly changed in this city. As investment pours in and youngsters look for an alternative scene, the night beat is certainly booming, especially in the city of Johor Bahru. Check the listings for newcomer clubs on the rise, swish and swanky bars or to find the institutions that are still going strong with the simple promise of ice cold beer, great atmosphere and a football game on the screen.
67 Jalan Molek 3/10, Taman Molek; 12 Jalan Austin Perdana 3/10, Taman Austin Perdana, JB (012 772 2111). As the name suggests, After 5 is a watering hole catering to the post-work crowd. Everything about this pub is mediocre: run of the mill set up, mid-priced drinks and average nibbles. That said, it is still a decent place to glug a few pints without travelling all the way downtown.
NEW Aruku The Walk
Ground floor, Block D, Lot 5, Plaza Sentosa, Jalan Sutera (07 331 1118/ www.arukuthewalk.com). Strut through the tunnel entrance with glittering mirrors covering every surface, and stop for a photo op. Aruku The Walk is popular with the younger clubbing crowd in JB, and they do try to shake things up with a menu of diverse DJs. They have a pretty extensive food menu but price of the drinks can be slightly higher than other watering holes in town. Credit cards accepted. Daily, 10pm–3am.
77G Jalan Mutiara Emas, 10/2 Taman Mount Austin (016 790 9151). Bartini has added a slew of brand new dart machines to their entertainment arsenal. If you’re more for relaxing, then down your drink in indoor or outdoor spaces while watching the football game of the night at this Johor nightlife institution. Bartini has gained a strong following of regulars with its chill atmosphere. That being said, their music can get quite loud at times.
Basement, 18G Jalan Abdul Samad, JB (019 779 0800). Styled with Balinese art decor, this bar in downtown JB is best summed up by the words dark, glitzy and mysteriously alluring. We think Bar Banyan is probably one of the classiest bars here. Settle into their rustic wooden furniture while soaking in the chilled out vibes. Modern paintings, mellow lightings and soothing jazzy music make it a place to go for a relaxing night. The drinks menu might be unspectacular, but the prices more than make up for it.
8 Jalan Skudai, Straits View (07 222 7807/07 222 7808/www.facebook.com/ eightlido). While most of the bars and pubs in Johor attempt the same formula by providing dirt cheap beer deals, Eight Lido took a different approach. This sophisticated lounge (also a restaurant) housed in a 97-year-old Spanish style bungalow is certainly in a class of its own. Overlooking the Lido beach, it oozes romance and charisma especially when the night sets in. If you’re here for a date, let the breathtaking view set the mood for you – opt for the alfresco area for the beautiful sunset. As the inhabitants are mainly made up of upmarket and ‘too cool for school’ urban professionals, the drinks prices are on the higher side. But the inventive (bordering on outlandish) drinks list and soothing ambience ensure that Eight Lido has a value that is hard to match. Mon–Fri, 5pm–2am, Sat, 10am–2am, Sun, 10am–4pm.
Jazz & Blues Discovery Holiday Plaza, Jalan Dato Sulaiman, Century Garden (07 331 3336/www. jbdiscovery.com.my). With different sections such as the coffee house, lounge, discotheque, cocktail bar, pool tables and 47 karaoke rooms, there’s someplace to suit every scene in Jazz & Blues Discovery. The massive hall’s sound and lighting system is considered one of the best in Johor Bahru. Note: the crowd can get rowdy at times.
Credit cards accepted. Daily, 9pm–3am.
La Primeur Puby 61 & 61A Jalan Harimau Tarum, Century Garden, JB (07 334 9854); 51 Jalan Impian Emas 5/1, Taman Impian Emas, Skudai (07 556 8655); 4 Jalan Austin Perdana 3/10, Taman Austin Perdana, JB (07 355 2761). With three branches across town, La Primeur is one of the most popular sports bars. Sports fans are often seen filling up the well-ventilated bar especially when there are big events on. The space might not be remarkable but it usually does have a good atmosphere, aided by the karaoke machine and attentive staff. Drinkswise, you can skip the liquor and wine list and head straight for their draught beers.
Mulligan’s Irish Pub 17 Jalan Permas 10/2, Bandar Baru, Permas Jaya Masai, JB (07 388 1869); 39 Jalan Kuning 2, Taman Pelangi, JB (07 388 1869); Straits View Condominium, Jalan Permas Selatan, Permas Jaya, JB (07 382 0566/www. mulligans–jb.com). Celebrating their seventh year in Johor, Johor’s arguably most authentic Irish pub is a favourite for locals and expats seeking a pint. Needless to say the homely decor is all green walls and wooden furniture, accompanied by a jaunty service team. With draught beers, whiskey and a list of decent bar staples, Mulligan’s is the spot to crack open a cold one and have a relaxing evening.
Palm Lounge 88 Jalan Ibrahim Sultan, Berjaya Waterfront Hotel (07 221 9999/www. berjayahotel.com/johorbahru). Palm Lounge is an open concept lounge on the ground floor of Berjaya Waterfront Hotel, which was formerly known as The Zon’s Regency Hotel. This place features live music entertainment every night. Sip on cocktails, beers and wine and snack on a pizza or two. In truth, the hotel is a little run down by the dim lights of the dusky evening, but the atmosphere is all that counts, right? Credit cards accepted. Daily, 12noon– 12midnight.
Roost Café 9 Jalan Dhoby, Bandar Johor Bahru
(017 726 7489/www.roostjuicebar. blogspot.com). Essentially a café by day, Roost doubles up as a nightlife joint when night falls. Its quaintly-beautiful interior makes it a great place to sit and chill. Roost is perhaps one of the coolest new finds in Johor. No wonder the local hipsters and scenesters have already called this place their home. Mon–Sat, 12noon–4pm, 6pm– 12midnight, Sun, 6pm–12midnight.
Showhouse Sentosa Gastro Bar Ground floor, Block C, Lot 1,2, 3 & 21, 22, 23, Plaza Sentosa, Jalan Sutera, Taman Sentosa (07 295 6990). The swanky twenty-something crowd makes this bar/club the hippest nightlife spot in JB. On full house Saturday nights, this gastro bar turns into a club with resident DJs churning out EDM and house music. On other nights, it’s actually a nice place to chill out after work with a lot of elbow room to move around. Also, there is a nonsmoking room, a wine room and a VIP room dedicated to the cork-popping high fliers.
Sky Lounge Grand Paragon Hotel, 18 Jalan Harimau, Century Garden (07 278 0888). What makes a view? Drinking just got a whole lot classier in Johor. Elegant bars are hard to come by in this state, but we have to thank Sky Lounge for breaking the norm. This stylishly outfitted bar located on the 26th floor of Grand Paragon Hotel is the only sky bar in the city. Apart from sweeping views of JB city and even Singapore, there is an extensive list of beers, wine and liquor. The newly launched Cigarism lounge and yakitori bar gives guests something different. There’s also a VIP only Elite Club on the same floor. So don’t expect cheap beer deals or anything like that here. Definitely an ideal place if you’re looking to impress out-of-town visitors.
NEW The Balcony Bar & Restaurant Wisma SP Setia, Jalan Indah 15, Bukit Indah (07 239 5191/www.facebook. com/thebalconybarnrestaurant). Opening in late 2013, the classy Balcony Bar & Restaurant has proven popular amongst the upper strata of the working crowd and expats looking for a relaxing pint after work. There’s a gigantic screen for sports enthusiasts, and whenever major sports events such as Thomas Cup or football games are on, a crowd of regulars can be seen parked in front of the screen with drinks in hand. The Balcony’s Western menu also comes highly recommended. Try the signature pork knuckles. Credit cards accepted. Daily, 12pm–1am.
Vino Vino Bistro 12 Jalan Molek 1/13, Taman Molek (07 358 1699). Hailing from Kota Kinabalu, Vino Vino Bistro has since opened two new outlets, one in Johor and one in Penang. This bistro, wine bar, whisky bar, and coffee bar has devised an innovative method of serving its wine and whisky. Dealing with diners’ valid concern of not being able to try their wine or whisky before having to order a glass or a bottle, Vino Vino has a dispensing system that keeps drinks at an optimum, regulated temperature and dispenses drinks like a vending machine with options of ‘tasting, half or full glass’. The convenience of having wine and whisky aside, Vino Vino also serves food. Its speciality is the grill menu with its delicious yakitori grills. Mon–Sat, 12noon–12midnight, Sun, 4pm–12midnight.
Wall Street Cocktail Bar 8 Jalan Austin Perdana 3/10, Taman Austin Perdana (07 361 2723/www. wallstreetjb.com). After a management revamp earlier this year, the interior design is pretty striking upon entrance. There’s nothing quite like this in JB; their drinks menu is presented on the LCD screen in a ‘Wall Street’ way where the prices fluctuate like the stock market. As the time and the popularity of certain drinks changes, so does the price. That being said, drinks are pretty standard.
NEW I Beam Bar 21 Jalan Seluang, Taman Banang, Batu Pahat (016 338 5890/www. ibeam.com.my). After a renovation and expansion in 2012, the most happening nightclub in Batu Pahat is back. Drinks are good; there’s a nice mix of resident DJs to keep the crowd dancing; free flow parties are regularly organized and, to top things off, women can enjoy free cocktails on ladies night every Wednesday. It’s no surprise that I Beam comes highly recommended by Johor partygoers. Free parking. Credit cards accepted. Daily, 9pm–3am.
Barcode 81 Jalan Sutera Tanjung 8/2, Taman Sutera Utama (07 556 7689). The western gastrobar is beguiling, well-fitted and stylish all at the same time. Decor is done with lots of wooden surfaces, cosy lightings and ample seating. Patrons are mostly made up of young urban white-collars who are looking to unwind after a day of work. The big draw is of course, the drinks menu, featuring a long list of cocktails, beers on tap, wines as well as champagne. This newcomer has already developed a reputation amongst locals and become one of the coolest casual hangouts in the neighbourhood.
Daily, 4pm–3am. $$$
NEW Embassy Bar 1 Jalan Impian Emas 5/2, Taman Impian Emas (07 570 1808). Large yellow lettering spells out Embassy Bar’s presence in Skudai. Though it has nothing much to do with ambassadorship, the Embassy Bar is still a force to be reckoned with in the nightlife scene of Johor. The live bands and guest DJs provide the crowds with a soundtrack for their post work razzle.
Credit cards accepted. Daily, 5pm–3am.
Lava Bistro 47 Jalan Sutera Tanjung 8/3, Taman Sutera Utama (07 556 7977). This stylish bistro is not without appeal, but beer’s the main deal here. A strong work-weary, white collar crowd usually packs the place while downing pints of Paulaner. Long list of beers, well-managed staff and the venue’s ambiance keep the place busy. Also, the live band performances do keep the atmosphere relaxing.
Live Pub 56 Jalan Tanjung 8/4, Taman Sutera Utama (016 786 9886). Live at Sutera Utama is a great place to hang out, and we’d suggest that you come around six in the evening when the beer is cheaper. You can listen to a pretty good live band here (as you’d expect from the name of the pub). If you visit later at night, you will find hardcore clubbers partying away with the DJs. If karaoke is your thing, there are some VIP rooms on the third floor.
NEW Prive Ultralounge 1 Jalan Sutera Tanjung 8/2, Taman Sutera Utama (07 554 2587/www. facebook.com/PriveUltralounge). Calling themselves a luxury lounge, Prive is certainly one of the better kept secrets in the JB beat. This cocktail bar is tucked away in a quiet corner of Taman Sutera, and the slick decor definitely wins them some points over the other clubs and bars in town.
Credit cards accepted. Daily, 5pm–3am. NEW The Grindhouse Club 91 Jalan Sutera Tanjung 8/2, Taman Sutera Utama (07 556 9008/www. facebook.com/TheGrindhouseClub). Now showing: the Grindhouse Club in Skudai is named after the burlesqueinspired theatres of New York in the ’70s and the two-storey dance club features pretty unique decor ideas gleaned from that era. A string of live music performances and international DJs are responsible for the dancing crowds.
Credit cards accepted. Daily, 9pm–3am.