A WELL-KNOWN Oxford St hotel was forced to temporarily shut its doors, two people are due in court and one of the scene’s most popular day clubs is no more following police allegations of a series of “drug incidents”.
Randel Morris, promoter of Up Dayclub, where many of the incidents are alleged to have occurred, told the Star Observer that he believed the event’s closure was part of a concerted effort to shut down the few remaining day clubs on Oxford St.
The order notice, which was posted on ILGA’s website and addressed to the hotel’s licensee, forced the venue to shut for 29 hours from 5am the next morning until 10am on Sunday, January 18 due to a “serious breach” of the 2007 Liquor Act related to the sale or possession of drugs which could pose a “significant threat or risk to the public”.
The closure period covered almost the entire time Up, which had a regular residency at the Exchange’s Phoenix Underground bar, would have operated as the event was due to kick off at 5am on both days.
Up billed itself as a “weekly morning recovery club where everything is uplifting” for “open-minded boys and girls who want to have a hassle free mingle and dance”.
Men-only Club Exile – which, like Up, is promoted by Morris – was also forced to cancel its January event that would have taken place on the Saturday evening.
After initially stating that that weekend’s Up was cancelled “for circumstances beyond our control,” on Sunday Morris informed regulars via Facebook that The Exchange had “advised” that the club would not be returning to the venue “until further notice”.
The Facebook post said the closure was because of “the venue’s compliance with an order relevant to the liquor act” and the safety of Up’s patrons was the organiser’s top priority.
“But due to a lack of respect, inappropriate and immature actions of a few, alongside the new extra power laws given to the police earlier this year to shut down venues we have no other option but to retire and hang-up our dancing shoes, at least for the foreseeable future,” it read.
Police told the Star Observer that several incidents at the venue, in particular from January 4-11 this year, “established there was a threat to the health and safety of members of the community”.
ILGA’s January 16 order cited penalty notices issued to the licensee going back to 2013 and made reference to police reports made following visits to the venue on the mornings of January 10 and 11, when Up was open, which said there were “practices that were not compliant with the drug policy of the premises,” “numerous apparent drug affected patrons,” and people “intoxicated by prohibited substances to a point where they required the assistance of an ambulance”.
NSW Police also confirmed two men were arrested on drugs charges at the venue on January 4.
A 51-year-old man, charged with possessing and supplying a prohibited drug and dealing with property suspected of being the proceeds of crime, will face court on January 29.
A 48-year-old man charged with possessing a prohibited drug will also appear in court on the same day.
“Both Up Dayclub and Club Exile are… highly reputable events, in keeping with the laws of NSW,” Morris told the Star Observer.
“I deny these allegations made against me and those made against the Exchange Hotel.”
Morris said shifts, or even entire jobs, would have been lost among security staff, DJs and bar staff due to Up’s sudden closure.
He also said while authorities in cities such as New York celebrated a vibrant night time culture, clubs in Sydney were being systematically closed down.
“There will be nothing left on Oxford St,” he said.
“They’re going after other clubs, what are they trying to achieve?”
Morris said he was “overwhelmed by the support” he’d received from event regulars on Up’s Facebook page.
The ILGA order notice also referenced a submission to the authority from the solicitors of Exchange licensee Darren Hickey saying he denied he or his staff were aware or permitted the sale, supply or possession of prohibited substances.
However, the notice also states that Hickey did concede that he had been “made aware of evidence of the use of prohibited substances on the premises by his staff, particularly cleaners working in the toilet areas”.
Hickey would not comment to the Star Observer, citing legal reasons.
Surry Hills Local Area Commander, Superintendent Bernie Ryan, denied the police were being heavy-handed and said the use and sale of prohibited drugs should never be tolerated.
“The NSW Police Force is committed to improving safety for all members of our community, and we will continue to take decisive action to ensure the people attending licensed premises are protected from drug dealers,” he said.