When you’re venue-hopping this weekend, spare a thought for the clubbers of Melbourne: they’ve just been slapped with a 2am lockout on bars and clubs in the inner-city municipalities of Melbourne, Yarra, Stonnington and Port Phillip. This means if you’re not yet inside a club where you want to spend the rest of your night, you’re stuck outside on the street waiting for the night ride home.
Police described the first weekend of the three-month lockout trial as subdued but there was much confusion and annoyance on the streets of Melbourne on the long weekend. The general concern is that the new late-night ban is going to ruin Melbourne’s cultural reputation, which has been strongly forged by a myriad of venues that cater to all scenes and tastes.
But the issue for authorities is alcohol-based violence (not to mention drugs, which are often harder and nastier than they used to be), and not whether Melbourne will slip in status as one of the world’s great party towns.
When the need for a new law is to stamp out or control drink and drug-related violence on the streets -” often suffered by an overworked police force and innocent victims -” is it selfish to insist that your right to party however and wherever you want is more important than a safer city for all? Or will the new lockouts only create more violence by forcing more people together out onto the streets, all at the same time, all amped up but many without social graces?
Some venues stand to win, with 50 exemptions being granted to fortunate operators who can still allow in new customers after the bewitching hour. Not surprisingly, there has been a huge outcry from other venue owners, who rightly insist that their businesses will suffer while others stand to win from this new law.
On the gay scene, the Xchange and the Market on Commercial Road in South Yarra have both been granted exemptions -” but across town in Collingwood, the incredibly popular Peel Hotel has not. A precondition of having an exemption is that the venue must not advertise that it is exempt, but the Xchange’s exemption is already in question after breaking the rule on the very first weekend by advertising its status on its website. Who cares about needing to advertise the fact? The word-of-mouth factor will ensure that these venues will secure the lion’s share of the so-called late-night economy, becoming super-venues while others dwindle away.
With Sydney’s nightlife about to get a shot in the arm with the new small bars licence in place from 1 July, the cultural purveyors of Melbourne are unhappy that their city has lost its edge: Melbourne doesn’t have an Opera House or a Harbour Bridge or world-famous beaches. It does have a world-famous cultural nightlife and musical hub that is going to be taken away from us and handed over to other cities, Andrew Ranger, spokesman from the Melbourne Locked Out organisation, said.
Here in Sydney the long weekend passed by in the fashion to which we are accustomed: with lots and lots of gay dance parties. Inquisition at the Dome/City Live was smaller in numbers than had been hoped (especially in City Live) but was still populated in the thousands by partygoers in leather/fetish costumes, in the mood for dirty fun.
On the other side of the spectrum, Homesexual at Home nightclub was jam-packed with clean-cut types in school uniform dress theme who managed, unlike the Inquisition crowd, to get some shows as part of their entertainment.
In the city at the Arthouse, the Action party was the scene for UK DJ Steve Lawler’s first ever gay party, and he was right at home with the crowd of hot men enjoying his deep and dirty underground house sound. I stepped back in time at the Reunion rave at the Metro, where the spirit of Sydney’s old school rave scene was alive and well, slightly awed by how much it felt just like a 1993 warehouse rave.
This Friday it’s the final weekly Bitch session at the Mars Lounge -” 156 Fridays and three years later. The girls from Bitch will be starting a new party series at the Oxford Art Factory on Saturday 5 July called Revolution, which will be Bitch’s Sista P’s last DJ set before heading overseas for six months.
Bitch will still be monthly at Mars, and watch out for the birth of the Mega Bitch events at the Oxford Art Factory and a national and an international tour later this year, along with Get Together collaborations with Fag Tag.
Expect all of the Bitch favourites on Friday as Renae, Sista P, Beatrix and Kyla Sexton bid farewell to promoting the weekly club night. Good luck, girls.