In the wake of the announced sale of the Green Park Hotel to St Vincent’s Hospital, for use as a community space and associated health services, a petition has been launched to save the much loved LGBTQI venue.

2020 has rocked many industries to the core with hospitality one of the most severely hit, yet in Sydney it comes after many years in which venues have had to operate under highly contentious lockout laws. Laws which the likes of St Vincent’s have been vocally supportive of.

In a 2019 parliamentary inquiry into Sydney’s night-time economy, a submission by St Vincent’s stated that clinicians had likened the constant flow of injured patients from Kings Cross to the Emergency Department as a “conveyor belt of carnage.”

“Community safety must be the priority,” it said. “The true cost to the community of increased demand for public services must be factored into any economic argument about the expansion of the night-time economy.”

And while everything must be done to curb assaults and improve safety, many are left wondering if St Vincent’s plans for The Greeny, as it is affectionately known, really consider the very real need and service that such venues provide to LGBTQI communities. Particularly when The Green Park Hotel is not the only Darlinghurst venue to have recently changed hands. Last week, Star Observer had reported on the sale of nearby Kinselas and Courthouse Hotel, news that has raised further concerns for the future of the once thriving local area.

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 Star Observer reached out to a number of Green Park Hotel regulars to talk about what the venue has meant for them, and their communities over the years. One such person is Josh Acton who also spent time working for outgoing owners of the Green Park, the Solotel Group.

The Green Park and LGBTQI venues offer a friendly, welcoming and most importantly safe environment, where you feel comfortable to be your true self. You could catch up with regular friends and meet new friends almost every visit.

There was a real community feel that is sadly reducing with the closure of so many LGBTQI venues. This sense of community is extremely important to have, especially for people that are joining our community for the first time.

In an attempt to draw attention to the imminent closure of the Green Park Hotel, and the inevitable hole it will leave once last drinks are called, a petition was recently launched by a number of concerned individuals. So far in less than a week, it has attracted over 5,000 signatures.

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 But will it be enough? One person who certainly hopes so, is Darlo local Ben Harrison. 

“The Green Park has always been a hub for the community… It’s like a community living room, it’s a pub where you can go and feel like you can be yourself. It’s a public house in the true sense in that it takes all comers, queer, straight, hospital workers next door, it’s a critical space.

Because of the lockout laws and a range of other factors, all business here have been suffering. The Green Park Hotel is one of the businesses that support other businesses. There are restaurants that have customers because the Green Park has customers. The fear is not just for the Green Park as a queer space, it’s also for all the other restaurants that are adjacent that will also be severely impacted.”

Another individual that has thrown their weight behind the community’s attempt to save the Green Park Hotel is local MP Alex Greenwich, who last Thursday publicly released a letter addressed to St Vincent’s requesting they seriously reconsider their plans for the venue.

“The Green Park has been an important neighbourhood establishment for over a century and has become a cultural hub for LGBTQI communities to whom it has provided a safe, accepting and fun space,” Greenwich’s letter read. “Social and public places for our community to congregate are diminishing in the face of development pressure.”

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 And while there are just five days until the closure of The Green Park Hotel, the pressure is not letting up. Sydney’s Deputy Lord Mayor Jess Scully has also weighed in by tabling a motion to protect the social use of the space, similar to the protections around the Le Girls site. Unfortunately, on Monday evening at the City of Sydney Council meeting, they were unable to debate on the subject, and it will instead be discussed on Wednesday morning.

Regardless of the outcome, what has been demonstrated in the weeks since the closure of The Green Park Hotel was announced, is a strong sense of community spirit – Of knowing that if we do not stand up and stand together, we will continue to witness the further demise of our safe and sacred spaces. All in the name of progress.

For more info, head to the Save The Green Park Hotel Facebook page.

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