THE head of the Erskineville residents group has told the Star Observer something had gone “seriously wrong” at the iconic Imperial Hotel with reports the pub’s owner has taken possession of the venue following a second shutdown by licensing authorities in a little over a month.

According to Fairfax Media, Imperial owner Shadd Danesi — whose portfolio also includes popular Taylor Square gay nightclub ARQ — said the inner-west Sydney venue would temporarily remain closed despite a 72-hour closure order coming to an end this evening after it was issued on Friday by the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.

[showads ad=MREC]”It might be closed for a period of time,” Fairfax reported Danesi as saying.

“I have to have some discussions with the authorities in that regard.”

In April, Spice Group International – headed by Murat Kilic – took over management of The Imperial Hotel, installing its regular nightclub party Spice Cellar in the basement space with events targeted at the LGBTI community focused at the front bar.

Since then, licensing authorities have ordered the venue to close on two separate occasions for serious breaches — first on June 19 and, most recently, on Friday (July 24).

On Saturday, the NSW Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing said the second closure was due to allegations that included drug dealing on the dance floor, an undercover inspector being asked if he knew where drugs could be purchased and a bar goer “licking a spilt drink off the floor as a Responsible Service of Alcohol marshal watched and laughed”.

In a statement on Friday, Spice Group said there was a “conservative agenda” to destroy Sydney’s night life and a “minority of bad eggs ruin it for the majority of people doing the right thing”.

In light of this, today Danesi told Fairfax: “I would never tolerate the supply or sale of drugs in any venue which I operated.”

“I can understand the authorities are extremely concerned, as I am,” he said.

“We are both on the same page.”

It is understood Spice Group will not be invited to re-tender for the management of the venue.

Meanwhile, Darren Jenkins, the president of the Friends of Erskineville residents group said the area had a proud LGBTI heritage but it was “a great shame to see The Imperial’s name tarnished”.

“The issues around anti-social behaviour have flared now but they have been simmering for some time,” he said.

“Where other licensed venues in Erskineville have been operating well, even after introduction of the lock-out laws, something has gone seriously wrong at The Imperial.”

Jenkins also said the closure would enable some reflection on how The Imperial Hotel got to the state it was in, not just by the owners but also by City of Sydney council for allowing the venue to trade so late and with such a large capacity in a residential area.

“Good venues that are open into the night can improve the suburb immeasurably and make the place safer by having activity on the street,” he said.

“But there’s nothing safe about walking past a venue that is busting at the seams and with people who are intoxicated and affected by drugs.”

Jenkins added that the community expected change: “The future success of the Imperial relies upon it being a good neighbour and regaining some of its former shine.”

Danesi and Spice Group have been contacted for comment.

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