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Post lockout laws and COVID, new venues hint at revival of Sydney nightlife

A new LGBTQ nightclub, Heaven, opened last month on Oxford Street, where groundbreaking club Capriccio’s began in 1969. Owner Nathan Larkings, a furniture retailer, said his accountant told him he was spending so much money on clubbing that he might as well open his own venue — so he did.

It’s been a slow start as the hospitality industry struggles with the combined effects of staff shortages, a lack of tourists and Sydneysiders summering or hibernating in Europe in the winter.

A Friday night drag show at Heaven, a new LGBTQ nightclub that has opened on Oxford Street.

A Friday night drag show at Heaven, a new LGBTQ nightclub that has opened on Oxford Street.Recognition:Flavio Brancaleone

Larkings and other operators said Fridays were still quiet compared to Saturdays and that was evident herald walked through Darlinghurst on Friday night.

“We have to arm ourselves,” Larkings said. “We have WorldPride coming up and I think we really need to look at our offer.”

Another nightclub, Noir, has recently opened in the same building below the sky and a block away the old Brighton Hotel has been reborn as The Riley after a major refurbishment.

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Behind Taylor Square, a three-story venue unlike any Sydney has seen recently will open its doors in October. Meraki Arts Bar aims to banish the trope of seedy theatrical prosecco by combining arts and performance with quality food and drink.

It will have a gallery and cocktail bar on the ground floor, an 80-seat or 110-seat cabaret on the middle floor, and a 50-seat theater on the top level and a speakeasy called the Green Room. There will be three performances per night, including a show at 11:30 p.m., with a license until 3 a.m.

Operators say rebuilding Sydney's nightlife is a long game, but there's an appetite to start fresh and create something great.

Operators say rebuilding Sydney’s nightlife is a long game, but there’s an appetite to start fresh and create something great.Recognition:Flavio Brancaleone

“It’s really a place for these creative artists to come together and showcase what Sydney has to offer,” says general manager Kieran Took, formerly of late-night restaurant Big Poppa’s and CBD jazz bar Swinging Cat.

He wants Meraki to be the place where Sydneysiders can rock out every night knowing, “You’re going to wear something.”

Took says there’s still a long way to go to revitalize the city’s nightlife and it won’t happen overnight. But “there is a thirst, that’s the only thing that’s very evident”.

“I’m optimistic because you just have to talk to people,” he says. “You have to open the doors. When you open the doors, people pour in. People are ready for their first real summer in four years. It will be like setting off fireworks. The whole thing is going crazy.”

Oxford Street has been hit particularly hard by lockout laws and lockdowns, but money is flowing into the Strip.

Oxford Street has been hit particularly hard by lockout laws and lockdowns, but money is flowing into the Strip. Recognition:Flavio Brancaleone

In Chippendale, Solotel’s Elliot Solomon is preparing to relaunch the old Abercrombie Hotel on the corner of Broadway and Abercrombie just in time for the summer. The venue, once home to legendary club night Purple Sneakers, has a 24-hour license and Solomon plans to use it.

“The goal is for it to be an all-night venue,” he says, with electronic, techno, and house music on rotation and a big emphasis on sound quality. He will continue this project by refurbishing the Kings Cross Hotel next year.

Security and policing remain controversial features of the city's nightlife.

Security and policing remain controversial features of the city’s nightlife.Recognition:Flavio Brancaleone

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Amid debates in hospitality circles about what exactly the next generation of revelers want from their nightlife, Solomon says young people simply want their venues to be safe, inclusive and fun.

“People will always want to go out and have fun, dance and socialize. I don’t think that will ever go away,” he says. “The green shoots are there, definitely more than I’ve seen in the past five years.”

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https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/after-lockout-laws-and-covid-new-venues-suggest-sydney-nightlife-hotting-up-20220805-p5b7ly.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_national Post lockout laws and COVID, new venues hint at revival of Sydney nightlife

Joel McCord

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