Arq Sydney has vowed to vigorously oppose any efforts to close the venue, after a weekend drug raid left the 24-hour licensed premises briefly shut on Sunday afternoon.
An order to close for 24 hours, which was presented to Arq on Sunday morning, was permanently dismissed in the Supreme Court on Wednesday afternoon.
More than 30 NSW Police officers raided Arq at about 11:20am on Sunday morning, ejecting almost 300 patrons from the Vortex downstairs area. They had an order to shut Arq down for 24 hours under Section 104A of the state’s Liquor Act -“ which allows a judge to order a venue to close for up to 72 hours if there is believed to be a threat to public health or safety.
In a subsequent clean-up of the nightclub, police alleged they found 200 different drug items with a street value of about $20,000 on the floor.
The drugs included amphetamines, vials of GHB, ecstasy tablets and cannabis.
Inspector Tony Unicomb from Surry Hills Local Area Command told Sydney Star Observer on Monday morning the police were responding to reports of as many as 11 GHB overdoses from Sydney hospitals.
At this stage we suspect that as many as 11 people have been treated in Sydney hospitals for drug overdoses, Unicomb said.
We suspect that they may have suffered from overdoses of a drug known as GHB or fantasy, which is an amphetamine-based drug, which has been known to be fatal on previous occasions.
An Arq spokesperson said there were many inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the police’s reporting of Sunday’s events.
Of particular concern were reports there had been 11 overdoses at Arq in one night. There had, in fact, been two, he said.
On that night, Arq had two overdoses resulting in two ambulance calls only. And one of the people affected informed those attending that whatever had caused that person to go down was purchased somewhere other than Arq, the spokesperson said.
He would not confirm whether the overdoses were related to the drug GHB. He said although Arq had policies in place to deal with drug overdoses, he would not be drawn on whether they had any specific policies relating to G overdoses.
Unicomb said the police started becoming aware of the overdoses in the very early hours of Sunday morning. It took until 11:20am to assemble enough police officers and obtain a closure order to shut the premises down for 24 hours. The inspector said the police had applied for the closure order in the interest of public health and safety, and to prevent further overdoses.
When questioned about the long delay between hearing of the overdoses and entering the premises with the order to close, Unicomb said the operation had been conducted in a timely manner.
Arq successfully contested the closure order in the Supreme Court on Sunday afternoon, allowing the venue to reopen for a Sunday night as usual.
Despite rumours circulating since the weekend about the police planning to try to close the venue down for longer, no application had been made by Wednesday afternoon.
The Arq spokesperson said Sunday morning was the first time the venue had been raided since its opening in 1999. He said they had in fact received high praise from licensing police during the recent renewal of their 24-hour licence.
After the raid, a 25-year-old Arq staff member was charged with drug offences and will appear in court in October.