First published on 18 Jul 2012. Updated on 23 Jul 2012.
Around the same time Time Out magazine launched in Sydney, Lord Mayor Clover Moore pushed through a bill to enable Sydneysiders to open small bars, similar to the ones they’ve had in Melbourne for over a decade. We celebrated long and hard, and even dedicated an entire issue to the topic. And now Hospitality Minister George Souris is trying to take it all back, claiming small bars are partly to blame for the alcohol-fuelled violence in Kings Cross.
Feel free to join in as we bang our heads against the wall in confusion and frustration.
Because it is
confusing. Kings Cross has been a violent, vice-fuelled area long before the Small Bars Legislation was even a twinkle in the Lord Mayor’s eye and will no doubt continue to be until some other part of Sydney takes the mantle. And it’s frustrating when something that’s changed the city’s nightlife in such a positive way takes a hit. All you have to do is take a look at the Cross on a Friday or Saturday night to see it’s not Hinky Dinks
or the Roosevelt
or Eau de Vie
that have lines of partying youngsters down the block. It’s Hugo’s
. It’s the Tunnel
nightclub. It’s Sugarmill
Cast your minds back to 2007 – a dark age for bars, when the city was overrun with big, brightly lit beer barns staffed by burly bouncers, or ultra-expensive cocktail bars. Sydney bartenders certainly didn’t have the scratch to think about opening a small venue. And so the reflection of our city was one of stainless steel, bright lights, chilled beats and schmiddies.
Fast forward just a couple of years after the Small Bars reform came into play. Suddenly there are bars like Shady Pines
. These are bars staffed by passionate people with a vested interest in changing Sydney into a town with a vibrant, varied and interesting nightlife. Sure, you might find these people in the bigger venues too, but they're not as apparent on first glance.
In the past four years we have seen the entire town take a turn for the better. It’s suddenly a city where people don’t just go to bars to drink, they go to socialise with each other and the people behind the bar –not faceless beer slingers who give you back your change on a stupid tray, but real people who built these small businesses from the ground up. And guess what: not a single one of them is in the heart of the Cross. They couldn’t afford it even if they wanted to be there.
You’ve got it wrong, George Souris. Want to see alcohol-fuelled rage? Get rid of our small bars.