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24-hour venue Sly Fox is closing after losing licensing battle with council

Written by
Maxim Boon

One of the city’s most popular late-night venues will close its doors next week, following a months-long battle with council authorities over restrictions imposed on its operating hours.

For more than 21-years, Sly Fox has been a stalwart of Sydney’s night time scene. Open 24-hours, without entry, alcohol or noise restrictions, the Enmore venue’s inclusive attitude, dive bar cool and ever-ready dance floor have made it one of the Inner West’s most popular late-night haunts, particularly for the LGBTQIA community, and one of the few reliable go-tos for a good time in the wee small hours after the introduction of Sydney’s lockout laws.

However, in recent months, the legality of Sly Fox’s round-the-clock licensing has been called into question.

In November last year, a complex and contentious history came to light. When the venue first opened its doors in 1998, it was granted a 24-hour operating agreement, but this was only valid for a single year. Once this trial period expired in 1999, the venue continued to trade 24-hours a day, seemingly under the radar of local authorities. The lapse of Sly Fox’s license went undiscovered for some 15 years until a review conducted as part of the lockout legislation's implementation in 2014 revealed the venue’s lack of an approved development application.

In 2016, following a lengthy correspondence, the Inner West Council agreed in a letter to Sly Fox's management that they could continue its 24-hour operation under the proviso that amplified music cease after 3am. To meet these demands, the venue’s owners introduced headphones for a silent disco and installed more than $100,000 worth of sound-proofing, allowing parties to continue throughout the night.

However, even with these improvements in place, an application to renew its 24-hour liquor license, lodged last year, was unsuccessful, and the in-writing 2016 trading agreement was also apparently rescinded, marking the beginning of a deteriorating relationship between the Sly Fox team and council officials. A provisional license to trade between midnight and 3am was granted in December, dependent on noise reduction measures.

A community campaign to save Sly Fox had been gaining momentum in recent months, but in a Facebook post on January 8, the venue’s management announced Sly Fox’s ‘last chance to dance’, a swansong event on January 18 that will mark the permanent closure of the venue.

Sly Fox's decision to wind-up its trading is not the result of having its license rescinded outright, however. When contacted for comment, a spokesperson for the Inner West Council confirmed that "the Licensing Police identified that Sly Fox did not have a valid Development Consent, meaning the venue had been trading illegally without a proper approval", but that the council had assisted with the lodging of a new development application to allow Sly Fox to continue trading. This application was successful, however it was subject to "a number of relatively standard requirements", most notably relating to noise levels after dark and the venue's right to trade 24-hours a day. 

"The Independent Planning Panel approved a two year trial period on trading between midnight and 3am, pending submission and approval of a Plan of Management," the Inner West Council spokesperson confirmed. "There were a number of noise limits that Sly Fox would need to ensure it complies with, including during its trial period. The acoustic engineer for the hotel assured the Planning Panel that this was possible up until 3am, but had not done any testing to ensure this was possible after 3am." 

Full details of the Sly Fox’s closing parties can be found on its website.

Looking for another late-night destination? Check out these lockout free night spots

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