The City of Sydney has approved redevelopment plans for the Newtown Hotel and the owners have obtained a liquor licence, with online speculation suggesting the venue could reopen before the end of the year.
However all indications are that the hotel will not reopen as a gay venue.
Building owners Newtown Colonial Hotel Pty Ltd have ignored all requests for comment from GLBT media since November 2007 when hotel staff arrived to find themselves locked out of the venue and security guards posted inside after the then licensee David McHugh attempted to renegotiate the lease.
The dispute went to court in 2008, with Newtown Colonial Hotel that year publishing a Liquor Social Impact Assessment statement in this paper as part of attempts to obtain a liquor licence of its own for the venue — its sole attempt to engage with the GLBT community since the hotel’s closing.
The Star Observer has since learned from the Office of Liquor, Gaming & Racing that the licence for the hotel was transferred from McHugh to Newtown Colonial Hotel Pty Ltd in November last year under the name Helen Kritikos.
Attempts to reach Ms Kritikos through her lawyers were made four times this week and written questions — asking if the hotel would reopen as a gay venue, or if not, whether the hotel would welcome gay customers or be open to gay events being held at the venue — were sent. Calls were not returned and a reply was not forthcoming.
Online speculation has suggested the Newtown Hotel will reopen in some capacity by mid-December, but this could not be substantiated.
Before its closure the Newtown Hotel was the oldest continuously-running gay venue in NSW, having been opened as a gay bar by business identity Dawn O’Donnell in the early 1980s.
However, historical notes that were submitted to council with the development application by Newtown Colonial Hotel make no mention of its three decades of significance to the GLBT community.
Under the $3 million redevelopment plan the building will have a colonial-style wrap around balcony installed in place of awnings.
Newtown Colonial Hotel had originally sought to raise the capacity of the venue from 603 to 776 patrons. However, this was denied by council, as was an application for operating hours of 10am to midnight seven days a week.
Instead the venue will operate from 10am to 10pm seven days under a trial period of 12 months, with non-trial hours of 10am to 8pm.
Seymour Butz, a former DJ at the Newtown Hotel and long-time Newtown local, said he had said goodbye to the hotel a few years ago.
“It was sold to straight owners, and basically our community needs were betrayed for a corporation’s financial interests,” he told the Star Observer.
“Still, it is disappointing that the amount of gay venues hasn’t increased, even with the new licences being granted in the city.
“It is time we open our own spaces and are able to determine what we do and how we do it. There is in the community the financial ability to afford to make it happen.
“I and many of my brothers and sisters have the energy and spirit to support such a venture. Pretty please lets make this happen.”