Sydney Club Clampdown

In February 2014, following the deaths of two teenagers in unprovoked attacks, the New South Wales government launched a strategy to combat alcohol-fueled violence in Sydney’s Kings Cross, Oxford Street and central city entertainment precincts.


Strong spirits were banned after midnight, a 1:30 a.m. lockout meant no new patrons could enter and “last drinks” occurred at 3 a.m. Assaults dropped by 32 percent. But club incomes have been devastated, with 80 percent of foot traffic declining, and revenues dropping 30 percent to 60 percent. At least 10 major venues have since shuttered. The restrictions might not have been the sole cause for closure but were probably the final straw.

The latest victim was Hugos Lounge in Kings Cross, six times voted best nightclub in Australia. It went into voluntary administration July 29 after 15 years. In its heyday it drew 6,000 patrons per week and turned over $7 million. Its owner Dave Evans claimed income dropped by 60 percent since 2012, when initial restrictions were placed on Kings Cross.

He said 170 staffers lost their jobs in the past year. “We told the government it would destroy businesses and cause job losses, and it happened],” he said. Doug Grand, chief executive of the Kings Cross Liquor Accord, stated, “This once bustling place is now a ghost town.”

Evans is investigating the possibility of a class action with other club owners against the government for compensation.

The government will review the measures in February 2016, with the impact on business part of that review.

Another popular live music venue, The Exchange, is closing in late August. It follows the end of La Cita, Soho, The Bank, Trademark, The Flinders and The Backroom. Weekly dance clubs The Spice Cellar Ersknvl and Meanwhile moved out of the Empire Hotel. Owners of The Bourbon and the Fishbowl are turning the buildings into apartment blocks.

Before the government’s actions, venue operators warned that restrictions would have to apply throughout Sydney, rather than just in selected areas. As a result of the new rules, patrons have moved to other areas, with assaults climbing 60 percent in nearby Newtown. As a result, the Newtown Liquor Accord announced July 31 that 10 of its venues will in September trial a voluntary lockout and early close.