When Sydney’s lockout laws were first proposed, one of the biggest resounding fears voiced by stakeholders was the effect that they would have on music venues. Unsurprising, considering that of the 220 hotels, pubs and clubs that exist in Sydney’s CBD, 143 are classified as live music venues. During the days surrounding the release of the laws articles came out predicting a more or less total wipeout of Sydney’s music scene.
While it is undeniable that venues in the CBD, most prominently in Kings Cross have been severely impacted, the evolution of Sydney’s live music scene has been multifaceted. To get an idea of the way that Lockout Laws work, and other impacts that they have had, check out our feature here.
From a business perspective, the main effect of the laws was to take away venue’s ability to push large quantities of alcohol all night long. As a secondary effect they severely reduced the amount of traffic actually coming into Kings Cross and the CBD. That means that businesses that survived solely as alcohol venues suffered the most. Venues in the CBD now need to offer something else, whether that be pokie machines (fast becoming one of Sydney’s favourite pastimes), food, and music. Venues such as World Bar have done much better than say Soho, partly because Soho is awful, but also because they have a reputation for having some really good DJ’s. People who perhaps once considered themselves too trendy for the Cross are now willing to pay a small entry fee to see an artist they really like.
Of course, then you need to take into account the late-night music venues that haven’t done so well. Located on Liverpool Street, GoodGod SmallClub exists on the periphery of the inner-city club scene, but it built a reputation on being open late. The new laws forcing it to shut its doors at 1:30am have been incredibly detrimental, as they lose the entire portion of the crowd that would have made their way there later in the night. Oxford Arts Factory is suffering a similar crisis, as well as having two strikes to its name already due to breaches of RSA laws.
One of the most exciting responses however, has been the market that’s opened up outside of the lockout zone. Marrickville has seen a huge increase in illegal warehouse parties, which offer people the ability to meet up with like-minded people in a venue that isn’t regulated by the police. They may sound dangerous but generally the atmosphere is incredibly diplomatic and respectful. People aren’t there to get fucked up and beat each other up, they’re there because they either like the DJ who is playing, or they want a night out that isn’t governed by condescending curfews.
Red Rattler and Marrickville Bowling Club, which exist on opposite sides of the street, just off Sydenham Road have also seen a huge surge in popularity, as well as The Sly Fox Hotel in Newtown, which is relaunching as a late night music venue. The Sly Fox promotes that it stays open until 6am, but recent DJ nights have been so successful they’ve kept their doors open until 7:30am. This all corresponds with the introduction of Uber in Sydney, an alternative taxi service which is run through a phone App and offers much lower rates to standard taxis. While it is technically illegal to be an Uber driver in Sydney, more and more people are taking it up as a way of getting to and from venues.
It’s funny how the restrictions and controls imposed on Sydney have led to the emergence of an underground scene that is truly exciting. Who knows, in the next few months these venues may suffer the same fate as icons such as the Imperial Hotel in Newtown. But for now we can take comfort in the ability of Sydney’s music lovers to band together and meet new challenges in a way that is truly exciting and creative.