Let me take you back, Canberra. To a time when you could stay out in Civic until sunrise with nothing but your driver's licence and a $20 note. When chicks swigged bottled cider with the uber-cool name "Sub Zero" while the lads downed gin and juice to the Snoop Dogg song of the same name. When the long walkways of the Sydney building were packed on all four sides with lines of merry Canberrans who'd started the night at a suburban tavern and had come to the heart of the city to find love.
Let me take you back to 1997 - to the clubs that defined us.
1. Bobby McGee's (at Rydges Lakeside)
It started as a way for the city's hard-working hospitality staff to party as hard as they worked. But the rest of the city caught on, and Monday night - "hospitality night" - at Bobby McGee's became one of the biggest nights out in Canberra. Tequila shots and Midori Illusions shakers lined the bar while on the dance floor, the crowd participated in what can only be described as a pioneering form of "interactive" entertainment.
Remember the DJ/party host/random guy in boardshorts? He'd lead the crowd in a giant karaoke rendition of Jack and Diane (words printed on cardboard with big black texta) before teaching revellers a fully choreographed dance to Preston Smith's Oh I Love You So from the movie Cocktail. And don't forget a packed dance floor all performing YMCA. Tequila or not, you always had a blinder at Bobby's.
2. South Pacific Rugby Club (South Pac)
This place was RnB Fridays before RnB Fridays were even a thing.
But if the South Pacific Rugby Club was meant to be a destination for Islander footy players and their friends to celebrate after a hard-won match, why on earth was the tiny dance floor jammed on Friday nights with groups of white girls dancing around their handbags?
Two words: cheap drinks. And probably because South Pac was a warm haven when most Canberrans were shivering in the taxi line upstairs.
South Pac stayed open when everything else closed. It was downstairs off East Row; complete with pool tables, 2-for-1 specials that often kicked in after midnight and a cluster of poker machines the regulars sat and played while enjoying a quiet durry.
It was dark and dodgy as hell - wasn't the DJ booth a CAGE for the love of Pete? - and the stench of vomit from the ladies toilets must have been an inspiring fragrance for the club's competitive snooker players.
But despite its shortcomings, South Pac was a pretty exclusive venue. You had to be a member just to get in. For $5, the Fijian bouncer would take a blurry photo of your inebriated face and print you a membership card to be picked up on your way out.
I'll buy a case of Sub Zeros for anyone who still has their South Pac card in their wallet.
3. The Private Bin
Ah, the dirty, dirty Bin. By the time the late 1990s rolled around, The Private Bin had been the capital's premier nightclub for more than 20 years. An institution. You gotta believe me when I tell you that, in 1997, the Bin was more popular than Mooseheads. A former DJ reckons they'd get 5000 people through the doors of the Bin in a single night.
The Private Bin encompassed a series of levels, as well as Waffles Piano Bar next door. The lines on a Saturday night were insane. One for downstairs Bin and one for upstairs. The daring revellers would get a stamp in the (much shorter) downstairs line, go inside, and then race upstairs behind the bouncer's backs.
In 1997, Downstairs Bin was as much Shania Twain, Spice Girls and Chumbawumba as you could handle. And the song of the night was always a whole-of-club singalong to the retro classic Angel is a Centrefold. Downstairs Bin had this random mezzanine level - a sports bar? - where fights would break out every five minutes or you could go if you needed to take your pashing from the dance floor to somewhere a little more quiet.
Upstairs Bin was for the kids into dance music, except for Wednesdays, when it became a casual comedy venue. The booths upstairs were, ahem, always "action" packed and some Canberrans tell me they'd go to "Prohibition at the Bin" - regular parties for under-18s hosted at the iconic nightclub.
There will never be another like it. RIP Private Bin.
(Places we loved in 1997 which I simply did not have a high enough word count to cover: Pandora's, Knights, Liquid Lounge, Shooters, La Grange, Sails, and the "buses", both Pink Party and Moonlight. Heaven nightclub and the Mooseheads fire require columns all to themselves.)