We went to Kings Cross this Mardi Gras, here's what happened

Written by
Jordi Kretchmer

Music & Nightlife editor Jordan Kretchmer sacrificed one of the biggest party nights of the year to spend it in the Cross. Here’s what she found 

From the night I turned 18, many of my weekends were spent in the clubs and bars of Bayswater Road and beyond. It was an intersection of live music, lots of dancing, and 3am kebabs to refuel. I was one of those kids that jumped from club to club with a trail of stamps up my arm, arriving home when others were just rising. It was a time of discovery – I still remember hearing Flight Facilities’ ‘Crave You’ for the first time while watching them DJ at the much-loved Sneaky Sundays parties; going out on a school night to catch a DJ set from the Kings of Leon; seeing the boys from Sticky Fingers play one of their career-establishing gigs; and reviewing bars and clubs at a time when there were many more openings than closures. I didn’t do it every weekend but the fact that I had the choice to was key. 

On Saturday March 5, 2016 – the evening of Mardi Gras – I went out to relive my youth, and take in what King’s Cross looks like now. My plan was to stay out until at least 4am. 

Standing on Bayswater Road was an eerie experience. I could not have foreseen how truly dull and lifeless it actually was going to be. The streets and bars that were once filled with colour and revellers were quiet and mostly empty – just hours after one of Sydney’s biggest street festivals. The neon signs of strip joints were dimmed. Even their occupants who used to walk the Golden Mile were gone (albeit, owing as much to the cocaine ring bust as to the lockouts). Goldfish Bar – right at the mouth of the Cross – was totally boarded up. Around the corner on Kellett Street, the imposing staircase of Hugo’s was empty. Across the road there were a few punters inside clubs like World Bar and Candy’s Apartment – but once they left, with no new patrons allowed in after 1.30am, the vibe thinned quickly. 

"It's about the livelihoods of the greater community. I can't stand it, and I don't know how to voice my opinion."

Anthony Nix is 18 years old and has never experienced Sydney before the lockouts. He is not impressed with the Cross. “Our nights out have to be totally scripted – there’s no spontaneity,” he says. “I love seeing live music and [the lockouts] make it difficult to.” 

It’s not just the city’s club-goers and youngsters who feel this way. Jeremy Wells, 42, a long-time resident of Darlinghurst, told me the lockout laws have misshaped the community. “We live in this area because we liked the nightlife here. The lockouts impinge on our lives. They were an over-reaction to a problem that did need to be solved, just not in the way it has ended up.” 

A convenience store owner on Bayswater Road (who wished not to be named) told me he wanted to move shop. Unfortunately, this is impossible for him because of the terms of his lease. “There’s been a huge decrease in business – it’s not just about nightclubs, it’s about the livelihoods of the greater community too. I can’t stand it, and don’t know how to voice my opinion.” 

Kings Cross doesn’t feel safer, cleaner or better now. It just feels gutted, confused and lifeless.


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