The ownership of the Midnight Shift looks set to be decided in the courts after the landlord took control of the the iconic gay venue on Saturday morning.
In a statement from Amsterdam, where they are holidaying, Midnight Shift business owners Tim Berry and Clarence Cruz said they were amazed to discover their landlord, the Arunta Group, had seized control of the venue while they were away.
“The rent is paid weekly and has always been up to date. The only dispute was the outgoings which was due on June 30,” Cruz told Sydney Star Observer.
“You would think the landlord would wait until I am back in Sydney to negotiate instead of taking this action.
“We will take all legal options to retrieve the business.”
The Arunta Group has owned the building that houses the Oxford St hotel since 2008 and leases it to the Midnight Shift’s trading company, Bluejoy Pty Ltd.
The hotel is not in receivership but Arunta is understood to have taken possession of the venue under terms set out in the lease.
Arunta executive director Mark Madar told Sydney Star Observer he had been a patron of the hotel in years past and that Arunta had been well aware of the venue’s status as a gay venue when he recommended its purchase in 2008.
“We fully support the continuation of the hotel and we would support any organisations that the hotel used to support,” Madar said.
“We’ve left the staff here. The current licensee has agreed to stay. We’ve got no intention of changing it in any way.”
In a statement issued late Monday afternoon the group again stressed it had no plans to change the venue.
“Arunta would like to stress that it has absolutely no plans to change the Shift from being a gay and lesbian establishment, and that business will continue as usual under its ownership,” the statement read.
“Arunta and its foundations are a supporter of a number of charities, including [for] the gay and lesbian community, and will continue all those involvements.”
A Shift staffer told SSO Arunta took possession of the venue early Saturday morning, changing the locks to the premises.
The staff member said the venue’s employees and performers were told on Saturday they would retain their jobs under the new ownership.
When SSO visited the hotel on Monday afternoon two security guards were posted on the venue’s door.
Berry has a long history of support for Sydney’s gay and lesbian population, regularly offering the venue to community groups for fundraising events, as well as hosting his own fundraisers for charities.
He has been a heavy supporter of both the AIDS Trust and the Hope for Children Orphanage in Cambodia.
Berry and Cruz are expected back in the country this week.
The Midnight Shift is the oldest remaining gay bar on Oxford St and recently re-opened its upstairs venue as a men’s space called SaddleBar.
It is host to a number of regular community nights including Sydney Leather Pride’s Dog Tag, Buzz by Naked Barber Richard Savvy, and the Convicts’ Rugger Bugger fundraising evenings.
Harbour City Bears president Jonny Bastin said the planned Chunky Christmas in July party on July 28 would still go ahead at the venue.
The changes at the venue come on the heels of a string of changes on Sydney’s gay scene in recent months at venues as varied at The Clarence Hotel, Oxford Hotel and Beresford Hotel — all of which have been on the market this year.