JUST weeks out from Mardi Gras, one of the oldest pubs in Sydney’s Darlinghurst district has suddenly closed its doors and placed the blame squarely on the NSW Government’s controversial lockout laws.

The closure of the Flinders Hotel, located on the Mardi Gras parade route at Flinders St, also raises questions about Laneway — the festival’s signature closing event — which uses the pub as a venue.

Flinders Hotel licensee Jason Ryan told the Star Observer he had no choice but to close down the venue and lay off 10 staff following a 60 per cent downturn in business due to the lockout laws introduced last year.

“It’s a dire situation. Most of my trade was between midnight and 5am on Friday and Saturday nights and not being able to let people in after 1.30am and serve after 3am literally killed my business,” he said.

“It’s no different to renting a shop in Westfield and being told you can only operate a couple of hours a day.

“We were stuffed, basically.”

The venue held its closing party yesterday evening, posting on its Facebook page: “It’s been a good run but [former premier] Barry [O’Farrell] got us in the end.”

Once an iconic gay bar until the early 2000s, the Flinders had reinvented itself targeting an urban crowd with a small bar vibe.

However, the pub is still a key venue of March’s Mardi Gras’ Laneway, which the festival program describes as an event that “began with a couple of milk crates and a portable stereo [that] has now become a buzzing indoor/outdoor party, encompassing the original laneway plus the Beresford and Flinders Hotels at either end”.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras marketing and communications manager Paul Stuart said the capacity of the Flinders was about 200 people, far less than the Beresford, which is also part of Laneway.

He said the organisation was talking to the Flinders’ landlords about the implications of the venue’s closure and the likelihood of it reopening by March.

“Our current thinking is it won’t affect capacity and there are lots of scenarios in terms of layout,” Stuart said.

He added that the loss of an indoor area was not fundamental to the event’s success.

“At the end of the day the outdoor experience is the fun of Laneway,” he said.

The Flinders is the latest Darlinghurst pub to report a downturn in trade.

Last March, new entrant GayBar shut its doors and Oxford St stalwart the Midnight Shift said it was cutting its weekday hours due to the lockout laws.

However, the venue later called off a potential sale and reinstated some of the lost hours.

The NSW director of liquor and policing for the Australian Hotels Association, John Green, said, “The Flinders is not the first, and sadly, won’t be the last business to go under as a result of these restrictions.

“It’s sad to see a business that hasn’t done anything wrong pay the penalty for these lockouts.”

This week, the Star Observer revealed Erskineville’s famous Imperial Hotel had received a sale offer.

Lying outside the lockout zone in Sydney’s inner-city region, the ability to open through the night is believed to be a key attraction of the Imperial.

The NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing have been contacted for comment.

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