Iconic Sydney sex on premises venue Signal closing after 23 years

Iconic Sydney sex on premises venue Signal closing after 23 years
Image: One of the "sleazy corridors" of Signal. Photo: Ben Drayton/Facebook.

One of Sydney’s longest running sex on premises venues, Signal—which has operated continuously since 1996—is closing its doors at the end of November.

The sex on premises venue (SOPV), which has operated at the corner of Riley Street and Arnold Place, Darlinghurst for almost a quarter of a century, announced its closure on gay cruising website Squirt.org this past week, where staff member munkeyspanner posted a poetic eulogy.

“The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things,” his post began.

“Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax, of cabbages and kings. And why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings. 

“With those words, it’s my sad duty to announce the closure of Signal at the end of November 2019. It’s been a wild rollercoaster ride since we opened way back in 1996. Thank you all, you’ve been amazing. Tearing up writing this. Love to you all, the Signal crew.”

An interior shot of Signal. Photo: Signal Men’s Club/Facebook.

Gay Sydney DJ and Signal staff member Ben Drayton also paid homage to the Darlinghurst venue in a Facebook post thanking fellow colleagues Mike Hannah, Aaron Jay and Darrell Cohen.

Drayton noted the “sad loss” of such an established haven and the many stories that Signal has given the Sydney gay community. 

“Ah Signal, our hearts are broken. Our favourite shonky little fleapit is soon to be gone. Due to the pressures of gentrification, the club is closing at the end of November,” said Drayton.

“It’s such a sad loss. This notorious gentlemen’s club has been a refuge for so many of us, the only joint of its kind in town run with real heart and soul. It’ll be so missed, as will the family vibe Mike fostered over decades with a wonderful crew of co-workers. Aaron, Darrell et. al., it’s been grand working with you!

“Being a counter monkey there has been at times like being in a community theatre production of The League Of Gentlemen crossed with The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas and Alvin Purple—with a hefty dash of Treasure Island Media. 

“Good times! Thanks for taking a chance on me Mike, Signal saved my life, made me a better person and gave me stories (no names included of course) to dine out on for years.”

Interior of the infamous lift leading second floor club. Photo: Signal Men’s Club/Facebook.

Regular patrons of Signal were quick to respond with words of love, or share stories of their shenanigans at the club over the years. 

“Bugger. It’s such a shame. There’s so little sense of a gay community now, certainly nothing like it was. I get things evolve and change but venues like Signal were just as essential to the community as gay bars and nightclubs,” one commenter posted.

Another wrote: ”What a shame. Had a few interesting moments in those sleazy corridors. Good luck with your job search.”

Others simply posted photos from over the years. One photo of a sign scotch-taped to the front counter read: “Don’t touch yourself. Ask the staff. Thank you.“ 

Signal regular Jay told the Star Observer the venue’s demise would not only rob Sydney of a sex-on-premises venue but a community resource.

“Sure, you could go there and have hot, anonymous, no-strings sex any day or night of the week” he said.

“But Signal wasn’t just about that. You could also go there and catch up with friends, you’d run into people you know, you could pick up the gay mags there, watch TV on the lounges, have a coffee at the front counter with the staff, there was information about safe sex and the latest safe sex campaigns.”

A ‘house rules’ sign within the legendary venue. Photo: Signal Men’s Club/Facebook.

He added: “Between this and [Melbourne SOPV] Club 80 closing, it’s really sad.

“We’ve just won WorldPride 2023 but by the time it comes around, will there be anywhere for visitors to go?“

Jay said he planned to make as many visits as he could to Signal until the end of the month and predicted many other patrons, both regular and infrequent, would return for “one last fling”.

“I think it’s going to be an exciting month and Signal will go out with a huge bang. Pun intended.” 

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