ICONIC inner western Sydney gay-friendly bar the Imperial Hotel, made famous by seminal LGBTI Australian film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, could be sold within weeks.

The Erskineville pub is currently owned by Shadd Danesi who also operates Darlinghurst gay-friendly nightclub ARQ.

However, over the Christmas period speculation emerged that an offer was on the table for the Imperial.

Events and marketing manager Penny Clifford told the Star Observer that while the current owners were not actively looking to sell the venue, discussions were taking place with a potential buyer who had come to them unsolicited.

“There is talk with someone who might buy it but if it [is sold] it will happen around March,” she said.

Clifford said no agreement had yet been reached on a sale and it was “business as usual” for at least the next few months.

“Someone has made an offer but people make offers all the time,” she said.

The Star Observer understands the potential buyer already runs a nightclub in Sydney CBD which, while predominantly catering to the heterosexual market, does feature one-off LGBTI events.

The Imperial is also attractive due to its large size and that Erskineville lies outside the NSW Government’s controversial 1.30am lockout precinct. It means late night events can be staged without the restrictions faced in the traditional party zones of Kings Cross, George Street and Darlinghurst.

However, last year the NSW Police Association recommended lockout restrictions be extended to Newtown and Erskineville with the government likely to make a decision in the next few months.

Once owned by a legend of Sydney’s gay scene, Dawn O’Donnell, the Imperial Hotel shot to international prominence after featuring in the opening and closing scenes of Priscilla – both of which were filmed on the same day.

A drag show, in homage to the film, ran for many years in the venue’s cabaret bar.

More recently, the cabaret bar and downstairs nightclub have been given over to events organised by outside promoters.

While these events have generally not been aimed at LGBTI punters, community groups including the Harbour City Bears and Club Arak have made use of the space.

Clifford says it was becoming increasingly difficult for LGBTI-only venues to pay their way.

“I’ve managed to triple the [Imperial’s] take in two years because we’re not relying on the gay dollar,” she said.

“I like to call the Imperial a mixed venue with a gay RSL in the front bar.”

Despite the hotel becoming a home for bands on Australian tours and all-night house parties, the Imperial still boasts drag four times a week including House of Drag every Saturday and Betty Trollope’s Cabaret Carry On which begins in mid-January.

Main photo credit: Ann-Marie Calilhanna; Star Observer

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