ANOTHER stalwart of the Sydney scene is to shut with the Exchange Hotel, on the LGBTI strip of Oxford St, set to close its doors at the end of this month following the venue’s sale.
With the new owners not having yet been identified, there is no confirmation on whether the Darlinghurst venue will continue to focus on LGBTI punters, run parties aimed at gay or lesbian clubbers or, indeed, run any parties at all.
Now, it has been revealed, the entire hotel including Phoenix, Spectrum and the Nevada Lounge, will close at the end of July.
Last week, global real estate company CBRE finalised the sale of the hotel to an undisclosed buyer.
While the sale price on the more than 100-year-old building hasn’t been revealed, Director of CBRE Hotels Daniel Dragicevich, told the Star Observer it was in the region of $6.5 million.
Dragicevich said the NSW Government’s lockout laws, which limit the opening hours of licensed premises in Sydney’s CBD, had taken a heavy toll on hoteliers’ profits.
“The ability to drive an income has been marginalised to a point that the highest and best use for these properties are now in constant reassessment by the owners,” he said.
Dragicevich added the building would be closed for “at least a month” following the takeover.
However, while the new owners plan to retain the liquor licence there is no indication yet on whether the building will continue to include pub and club spaces.
Talking to the Star Observer, a staff member at the Exchange — who asked not to be named — said the new management was “not going to be running it [the venue] in the same capacity as now”.
The staff member confirmed that while Q Bar would be closing on 19 July, the Phoenix and Spectrum venues would remain open for a further two weeks.
This could mean the Bear Bar, which runs from the 17–25 July and features the closing night Growlr party, will be one of the last events at the Exchange in its present form.
The sale of the Exchange comes at a tumultuous time for venues popular with an LGBTI crowd.
Earlier this year, Darlinghurst’s Flinders Hotel closed its doors without warning blaming the effect of the lockouts.
In March, Murat Kilic’s Spice Group moved into Erskineville’s Imperial Hotel but vowed to continue events targeted at the LGBTI community.
President of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association (SGLBA). Mark Haines, said the lockouts had been “tough on business” but LGBTI people were also changing the way they socialise.
“As broader community acceptance of the LGBTI community has evolved, there is less need for gay specific bars because it’s more common for groups of friends to just go to a bar, be it gay specific or not,” he said.
“Both factors have forced businesses, particularly night time businesses, to assess their model and change it.”
Haines noted the Midnight Shift had recently opened the 91 Oxford Kitchen and revamped it’s bar to widen its appeal: “It’s either that or perish.”
At a Sydney Council meeting on Monday, councillors said discussions would continue with the SGLBA to find a location close to Oxford St for a shared working space aimed at small businesses and entrepreneurs.
“There needs to be a greater mix of businesses on the strip, especially during the day, and we think we can contribute to that,” said Haines.
Liberal councillor Christine Forster said of the plan, “This is the spiritual home of gay and lesbian Australia and this is exactly the business we need to support this precinct.”
Details on the last Girlthing party at Q Bar can be found on the club’s social media page.