Why there is still life left in Sydney after-dark

Written By Sam Murphy on 08/13/2014


In January, the NSW State Government passed laws in Sydney that enforced a 1.30am lock-out and 3am last drinks in a zone that stretches from Walsh Bay to Kings Cross and everywhere in between. Many at the time hailed it as the end of Sydney’s night life with a burgeoning electronic scene seemingly stopped in its tracks and in its golden age. As expected the lock-out has sucked some of the life out of Sydney after-dark with the question bandied around, ‘where is everybody?’ Well, while many are at home watching Harry Potter repeats (no judgement), there are still plenty of people hitting up some of the many events Sydney has to offer.

The State Government has opened its inquiry into the laws requesting comment from the public about the effectiveness of the new laws. You can submit your submission here. In the interest of looking at the glass half-full, here are the reasons why we should still be positive about Sydney after-dark.

Illegal warehouse parties

There’s a certain romanticism to the recent news that illegal warehouse parties are popping up around Sydney. While we don’t condone the poor safety regulations, it shows that people are still keen for nights out with great music. Last week, Murat Kilic, the owner of Spice Cellar nightclub, which has been deeply affected by the laws, revealed to the Sydney Morning Herald that warehouse parties were occurring every weekend. Kilic told SMH of the parties, ““We’re talking BYO parties where people are bringing their own booze, there are no cameras, there is grossly inadequate security, there are hazards everywhere. It’s exactly what the authorities don’t want.”

Mark Gerber, the owner of Oxford Arts Factory also weighed in on the conversation saying “You need rebellion to create change...It’s never going to end and it’s a good thing. Local councils should support it and not fight it.” Music promoter Sasha Skalrud added that there are about 15 of these parties happening every weekend, with 800-900 attendees. So, when there are tumbleweeds running through the Cross of a Saturday night, you now know where everyone is.

Upcoming events

Given that it’s the middle of Winter, it’s a positive sign that great electronic artists are still gracing our shores. This year already we’ve seen the likes of Ryan Hemsworth, Cashmere Cat and Jamie xx post lock-out laws, all receiving great turn-outs. Nina Las Vegas' shows saw Goodgod packed earlier in the year with a line-up that included LDRU, Cosmo's Midnight, Indian Summer and more. Still to come we’re going to see some tours likely to entice electronic fans.

In the latter half of this year, BBE are bringing US producer Com Truise to Goodgod Small Club along with the Ryan Hemsworth endorsed, UV Boi, while also presenting LA duo Gladiator at Chinese Laundry. Objekt, Jam City and Laurel Halo are set to deliver triple the fun at Civic Underground with all three of them earning titles as some of the best electronic producers around at the moment. One part of Major Lazer, Jillionaire, is also bringing his high-energy show to Pacha at the Ivy. Just moments ago, BBE also announced that Samo Sound Boy and Jerome LOL will be heading to Australia in September as DJ Dodger Stadium.

There’s plenty of local talent to get excited about too with Motez, BanoffeeMammals and Young Franco amongst a handful of great acts ready to breathe life into the city. Alison Wonderland, who is coming off the back off sold-out warehouse shows, will also play the Metro Theatre at the end of the month. Fast-rising Sydney producer, Kilter is also playing Oxford Arts Factory and judging by his mammoth Splendour In The Grass set, it will be one not to miss.

On the festival side of things, Listen Out Festival is set to bring Zhu, Four Tet, Shlohmo, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and more to Sydney and around the country. While Beyond The Valley on New Years Eve will see Alunageorge, Kaytranada, Dillon Francis and more in the country with sideshows surely to be announced soon.


When one door closes, another one opens, quite literally. Newtown has benefited the most from the lock-out laws because of its non-inclusion in the zone. Straight off the back of the laws, night owls began to flock to the Imperial off King St in search of some after 1.30am fun. Maker agency picked up on this and started Meanwhile, a club night on Fridays at the Imperial. Meanwhile lasts from “11.59pm until forever” and has so far has hosted DJ sets from Rufus and Silversix with Wordlife and Linda Marigliano still to play before August is out. By all accounts, it’s provided some sweaty nights already. Sometimes innovation is the most powerful way of responding to a poorly dealt card.

Astral People

Astral People are basically responsible for pulling everybody out of bed this year. Reaching their third year of existence, they’ve put on some of the best events in the city. This year already, they’ve presented Chrome Sparks’ Splendour In The Grass sideshow and hosted a stellar Vivid Live Studio party which featured Chicago acid-house act, Phuture, alongside L-Vis 1990 and rising producer, Bok Bok. Still to come this year they will celebrate their 3rd Birthday at Goodgod with Collarbones, Dro Carey, Rainbow Chan and more and present a joint Collarbones and Black Vanilla tour.

The most exciting thing to come is the return of their boutique festival, Outsidein. This year it will take place at Manning House in Sydney Uni and features their best line-up yet. On the said line-up is hip-hop group The Pharcyde, Seekae, Panthu Du Prince, Giraffage plus many more. I just fainted.

Clubs are changing things up

It’s not an easy task to convince patrons to enter a venue that they’re going to be stuck in after 1.30am and not allowed to drink after 3am but many have risen to the task. Spice Cellar offers a mocktail and juice bar between 3am and 5am to keep clubgoers hydrated while it also has an after-hours event that kicks off at 5am for those with a bit of stamina.

Goodgod Small Club has been hosting some interesting nights to get people in before 1.30am and out in the Winter cold. Their ‘90s night a few weeks ago had queues around the corner at 11pm to get in, with many of those people staying until the music stopped at 4am. There’s still plenty of treats to come from Goodgod (and we’re not just talking about their new Jamaican Canteen). At the end of the month, they’ll host Haters Club for those with a penchant for RnB. Bad Ezzy, Joyride, Shantan and Nacho Pop will be on the decks dropping beats that will most likely command all to get low. Real low.

Chinese Laundry relaunched in July with a Friday night bass-party called BASSIC and house and electro night LNDRY on a Saturday. While it reflects changing music tastes it’s also no doubt an attempt to get more patrons through the door given Chinese Laundry’s reputation as an all-night venue. So far they’ve hosted the likes of Motez and Indian Summer with a KLP party coming up in September.


What Now?

Now for the serious part. Despite there still being plenty of reasons to don your dancing shoes and head out, it’s important for Sydney’s long-term nightlife culture that these laws be dealt with in a conversational manner. The inquiry is the first chance for the public to have their first recorded say about the laws. Goodgod’s feature on FasterLouder said it best when it called music “the main currency” and alcohol “the support act”. It’s the responsible side of the clubbing community that needs to submit to the Government with a well-thought out submission that considers safety, culture and practicality. This inquiry doesn’t necessarily mean that anything will happen, but it’s the first chance to offer a formal submission en masse.

Finally, If you’ve been to Newtown of late, you’d have noticed the queues around the corner to bars after 1.30am. Newtown has never been designed for large crowds of those ready to club, rather it has always been regarded as having a bar culture. There will come a time when accommodating the crowds in Newtown will become an impossible task. If the Government is concerned about safety first and foremost it should look at some of the bi-products of the lock-out and consider it’s main reasons for installing the law. Many of which are tainted by the fact The Star Casino precinct is exempt from the law.

Once again, you can submit your inquiry here. Until then, don’t get angry, get even. There’s plenty in Sydney to do, even if you can’t wander the streets after 1.30am.


10 years ago

Great read, it's good to see you're keeping a positive vibe around this less than ideal situation, including giving punters some useful info and tips on how to have their say. Call me pessemistic though, but to my mind your comment towards the end sums up the ACTUAL driving force behind these regulations:
"... If the Government is concerned about safety first and foremost it should look at some of the bi-products of the lock-out and consider it’s main reasons for installing the law. Many of which are tainted by the fact The Star Casino precinct is exempt from the law..."

Bingo - if I was a conspiracy theorist I would dream up the possibility that this whole fiasco was engineered by powerful corporate interests with the funding to run smear campaigns on how dangerous Sydney night-life is, in order to drum up support for getting the regulations drafted and passed, and yet they somehow manage to keep themselves exempt. Cha-CHING... instant monopoly status. Australia's casino baron's are probably spraying bottles of Krug around their offices as I type :p

It's a shame that Australia is becoming an increasingly regulated and controlled environment all in the name of "safety". Sure there are some things we can do to encourage people to be responsible, and I believe with our already ridiculously controlled and heavily taxed alcohol industry it's already hard to be anything but a good little boy or girl unless you are really out to cause mischief. But if you're want to be an idiot, you're going to be an idiot. I would argue there was ever a need for these regulations and debate their effectiveness in achieving anything but making those sections of the community who have the time and inclination to go out and have fun on weekends (eg young people) feel increasingly alienated and targeted by the aging establishment. Way to encourage a strong community spirit!