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The doorway of Cafe Lounge, a painted blue wooden door opens with a neon sign overhead.
Photograph: Daniel Boud

Surry Hills’ indie haven Café Lounge is the latest casualty of the shutdowns

The popular bar and performance venue has handed in the keys

By
Alannah Maher
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Tucked away on a side street off Oxford Street, the party had rarely stopped at Café Lounge in the 20 years since its slatted wooden doors first opened. That is until several weeks ago, when venues all over Sydney (and the world) suddenly couldn’t operate as usual.

This week the Café Lounge team confirmed that they’ve handed over the keys for good, marking the end of an era for a valued space on the cultural fringes of Sydney’s alt-arts scene.

“With recent lockout laws, rising operating costs in a rapidly changing neighbourhood, we knew quickly this pandemic was going to be our end. We hope other venues receive the ongoing support required to get through this time and hopefully we all come back stronger with a government who recognises our value,” they said in a statement shared across social media.

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From humble beginnings as a licensed café serving breakfast to Oxford Street clubbers, a local live music, party and comedy institution emerged. Today, we handed back the keys from what’s been an incredible run. Cafe Lounge was a business passed on between friends who shared a passion for creating a space where people came together to meet, eat, drink, laugh, kiss, dance, love and live life. Endless first dates, proposals, lifelong friendships and romantic partners were formed as the sun always set, thanks to a mural by a local artist. With recent lockout laws, rising operating costs in a rapidly changing neighbourhood, we knew quickly this pandemic was going to be our end. We hope other venues receive the ongoing support required to get through this time and hopefully we all come back stronger with a government who recognises our value. We‘d like to thank those who played an integral part in keeping the good times flowing, all the hardworking staff, managers, artists, promoters and previous owners. They kept the dream alive for 20 good years. Lastly, none of this would have been possible or worth it without you. If you came to Monday night comedy, a midweek live show or danced all over our furniture on the weekends, we thank you for that and look forward to doing it all again some day in another place and another time. Much love The Lounge

A post shared by CAFE LOUNGE SYD (@cafeloungesydney) on

There was rarely a night when the Lounge’s pre-loved furniture was not packed out with punters there to eat cheap no-fuss food, sink craft beers and see the live shows that took place on the tiny stage, with its permanent sunset (in mural form) and charmingly confused hodge-podge of decor. 

On Mondays, The Comedy Lounge was a reliable mainstay of Sydney’s stand-up circuit, and live music was pretty much guaranteed every other night of the week with folk, jazz, rock, indie – and pretty damn near every genre you can think of represented. 

The claustrophobic toilet cubicles may have been narrower than that stage, but Café Lounge was a venue that was greater than the sum of its parts. May its reign live on, and may Sydney’s similar uncut gems survive these temporarily distanced times. 

Missing the artier parts of Sydney life? This queer culture exhibition is now online 

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