Bringing a Tachinomi Bar and Japanese Izakaya Food to Union St
Immerse yourself in an authentic karaoke experience, with private, fully-serviced rooms and modern karaoke machines.See our handpicked guides to Newcastle
BY ALICIA POOLE
There’s something about being in your own private room, surrounded by your best mates, sipping on cocktails, downing beers, and blasting out to the high notes of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
Well, now you have no excuse to do so with the official opening of Jam’s Karaoke & Bar kicking things off on the 2nd of January 2020. You now can stretch those vocal cords and sing to your heart’s desires in our very own City of Newcastle!
Long-time mates Andrew Coughlan & Joel Hillier have been working tirelessly with some of the best creatives across town over the past 12months to bring Jam’s to life. But how exactly did two young engineers come to the idea of opening up a Karaoke joint?
Rewind a few years, Andrew was visiting Joel whilst he was living in Osaka, Japan; the karaoke centre of the world, and it was always a point of conversation that Newcastle didn’t have that same karaoke offering.
“The plan was set in motion after Joel returned home from Japan at the beginning of 2017 and we caught up for some beers. We might have had quite a few under the belt at the time but the topic of opening a karaoke bar in Newcastle was raised and I was just like, let’s do it,” Andrew told me.
“I woke up the next morning and called Andrew to see if it wasn’t just the beers talking. He was already researching business names and liquor licenses; so, it was on,” Joel said.
A few years and a whole lot of work later, Jam’s Karaoke & Bar came to life, and with Jam’s being not only the city’s first Karaoke bar but also the first Tachinomi styled bar; it’s super exciting to see Newcastle embracing something a little different.
“Ultimately we wanted to provide a safe space where people can relax and enjoy themselves.”
No expense has been spared or thought unthought of. From the moment you enter, with the outdoor cubed lightbox enticing you in and recreating a typical Japanese shopfront, all the way through to the bar area which brings a Shinjuku back alley watering hole vibe to life, and even to the unisex bathrooms; they’ve got hi-tech Japanese toilets!
“The experience from the karaoke rooms to the tiniest details in design aims to feel a little foreign yet comfortable; who doesn’t like a good Bidet? Much like a trip to Japan, people will try and discover new things – this is a great feeling.”
The entire project, from ideation to completion, has seen young, enthusiastic entrepreneurs, happy tradies and friends from all over town bring their ideas,
skills and knowledge to the team.
The seating in the karaoke rooms was a collaboration between Rei from Upholstrei and joiner Aaron Hitchcock from Hitchcock Works in Islington. With design by Victoria Petrovsky, local skater (@wontom_noodle_soup), and NYC based artist (@mr_mustart).
Walking down the corridor you might recognise the work, as none other than local gal Kiasmin got to bring Jam’s walls to life. And the team from UNiQ Projects completed the build with a few finishing touches from architect Chris Bourke of Firm House
With eight private rooms, all varying in size, and a whopping 260,000 songs to choose from; no matter what your group size or genre of song, Jam’s has you catered for. You’ll also be glad to know that the second the door shuts, the room is completely soundproof. So, let that voice of yours reach those high notes!
“The whole point of karaoke is so you can enter a safe space with your buddies and feel free to let out your soul and decompress. It’s like therapy. For us, it was incredibly important to ensure people don’t feel self-conscious when they’re in there, so we worked with a brilliant builder and great acoustic engineers to make sure there was no leakage into other rooms or the hallway.”
Want to know the best part? Once you’ve settled in for Karaoke, you don’t even have to leave the room to order your food and drinks! Decked out with an online ordering system, karaoke goers can order right from their private room’s touch screen, with everything delivered straight to you. Talk about service!
Whilst the karaoke is at the heart of what Jam’s is all about, it’s just as much about the food and drinks as it is the off-key singing. For those unfamiliar with a Tachinomi styled bar, Joel explained…
“It’s basically a local bar. It’s a small place where people can find refuge from a bustling city and wind down with a stiff drink or a decent beer. A tachinomiya bar is often tucked into a small but busy alley near the busiest train station and is a popular destination for people to visit after work and before hopping on the train home.”
The bar area is sure to make your jaw hit the floor the second you turn the corner. Replicating a small busy bar space, you would typically see in Shinjuku or Shibuya in Tokyo, the area is cosy, fun and honestly; just bloody cool!
“We wanted it to be tight, so people could meet each other. But we also wanted it to be comfortable and respectful of personal space…we also wanted to make use of the warehouse roof height, which is really unique for the CBD, so we spiced up the next level of the bar by building some structures that take design cues off some 1970s architecture magazines we took from Japan.”
And for the food? Izakaya refers to Japanese snack food, or to further explain, kind of similar to tapas styled bars. The menu is currently chock full of small Japanese eats, including Takoyaki (Octopus Balls), Karaage Chicken, Gyoza, and much more.
“The izakaya is referring to the service of food in share portions that goes well with drinks. A typical izakaya will find you directed to a table to share with your group of friends, but as a tachinomi izakaya you can go there as a group or you can go there by yourself – everybody is mates at the end of the night.”
Also boasting a fun beverage menu, with Japanese inspired cocktails like the Cherry Blossom and house draught beers made by local brewery, The Rogue Scholar;
there's a little something for everyone.
Sake lovers can rejoice, as Jams has one hell of an extensive range. If you’re new to the world of Sake, just ask one of the crew behind the bar to give you the ultimate Sake education; they’ll get you up to speed!
“We really wanted to bring decent Saka to everyone’s attention. It’s so diverse and flavoursome and totally undervalued in Australia at the moment.”
Now we all know there are some absolute bangers and go-tos for a good night of karaoke; Any of Queen’s hits, B-52’s Love Shack, Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody, and my personal favourite; Barbie Girl by Aqua. But if you’re looking for some inspiration the boys shared their ultimate karaoke tune…
“That frozen song Let It Go is an epic banger on karaoke. It just keeps pushing it to the next level. Valarie (covered by Amy Winehouse) is a super confidence-inspiring song for those of us that are a little unsure of our abilities at the start of the night,” Andrew shared.
“I’ve been accused of murdering Everybody Wants To Rule The World by Tears for Fears, more often than I care to share. Aside from this, I like to brush up on my Japanese with the 80’s city-pop legend, Tatsuro Yamashita,” Joel said.
Whether you’re an avid karaoke-er, an absolute newbie, a Japanese culture fanatic or just wanting to give something new and exciting a try, you’ve got to get along to Jam’s Karaoke & Bar.
“We’re just stoked to be operating our karaoke bar in Newcastle. From pipe dream conversations over a brew to watching groups of people overjoyed to be singing karaoke at Jam’s – it’s been a wild ride.”