ONE of Sydney’s most iconic gay-friendly bars has been temporarily shut down for the second time in little more than a month following allegations by authorities of drug dealing on the dancefloor and lax responsible service of alcohol standards.
Erskineville’s Imperial Hotel, made famous as a location in the film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, said on Facebook on Friday evening that they had been “requested by the authorities” to close the entire venue for 72 hours until Monday July 27.
[showads ad=MREC]The post followed an announcement earlier on Friday by Spice Cellar, who have run the Imperial since April, that their weekly eponymous party – held in the venue’s basement nightclub – would cease immediately.
Spice Cellar said they plan to keep the public and cabaret bars open, where much of the entertainment geared towards the LGBTI community is held, and hire out the basement.
It is understood the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming authority ordered the shut down on the advice of the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) following inspections of the Imperial – including by police – since a previous 72 hour closure on June 19.
At that time, the OLGR had alleged bar staff were observed openly consuming illicit drugs while on duty, there were fire safety concerns and members of the public were excessively noisy.
Authorities say the latest shutdown followed a number of observations including a person potentially drug dealing on the dance floor, an undercover inspector being asked if he knew where drugs could be purchased, bar staff serving alcohol to drunk patrons, a bar goer “licking a spilt drink off the floor as a Responsible Service of Alcohol marshal watched and laughed,” and patrons becoming aggressive after being asked to leave the venue.
Commenting on the current closure on Saturday, NSW Deputy Premier Troy Grant said liquor laws had never been more stringent.
“Operating a licensed venue in NSW is a privilege, not a right, and those abusing it will face the consequences,” he said.
“I make no apologies for this Government taking strong and necessary action to protect the community, which we are doing on several fronts including lockout laws.”
On Friday afternoon, Spice Cellar – headed by DJ and club founder Murat Kilic – said the decision to close the nightclub permanently had been, “difficult and heartbreaking,” and laid the blame both on the controversial 1.30am lockout laws as well as antisocial behaviour.
“The overarching agenda by conservative groups for Sydney is to remove late night culture rather than acknowledge it as a core part of the cultural fabric that enriches a city,” the statement said.
“Lockout laws are not the way forward; restricting people’s civil liberties and disadvantaging industry causes a negative carry on effect to culture, jobs, tourism, entertainment to name a few.”
The lockouts, introduced just over a year ago, have been cited as a factor in a number of pub closures and sales including Darlinghurst’s Flinders Hotel and the Exchange which is due to shut in its current guise by the end of this month.
Not being in central Sydney, the Imperial is not subject to 1.30am lockouts.
“The sad truth is the minority of bad eggs ruin it for the majority of people doing the right thing,” Spice Cellar stated.
“Who is really at fault for bad behaviour?
“Is it the venue that serves the alcohol, the promoter who organises the event, and the alcohol companies who produce the alcohol or is it the individual?”
A spokesperson for Spice Cellar said they could not comment on the Imperial’s temporary closure for legal reasons.[showads ad=FOOT]