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Oxford Street at night during lockdown
Photograph: Maxim Boon

These eerie photos show Sydney's busiest nightspots totally deserted

Written by
Maxim Boon

It may have taken some Sydneysiders longer than others to fully commit to the state-mandated social restrictions, but by and large, the people of our city can give themselves a pat on the back for adjusting to the new #juststayhome way of life.

The latest statistics show that after a shaky start (we’re looking at you, Bondi and Manly beachgoers), Australians have 'flattened the curve' at an impressive speed. As the number of Aussies returning from overseas has decreased, and efforts to control community transmission have been ramped up, the number of new daily cases in Australia has now fallen to double digits, and NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian has even suggested that certain restrictions may be “relaxed” within weeks, possibly as early as May 1, if the state’s medical experts deem it to be sufficiently safe.

But if you needed more evidence that Sydney’s population is sticking to staying at home, these images of the city’s most popular nightspots, taken on the evening of Saturday, April 11, reveal the new normal: abandoned streets populated solely by seagulls, bin chickens and food-delivery riders.

Crown Street

Crown Street at night during lockdown

Photograph: Maxim Boon

One of the busiest stretches of this popular Surry Hills drag, this corner of Crown Street is usually teeming with life, with the Clock Hotel, the White Horse Hotel, Gelato Messina, and top-flight eateries like Nour and Toko drawing revellers in their hundreds. Not so at present, with the only signs of life to be found at the local grocers.

Corner of Crown and Oxford Streets

Delivery riders at night during lockdown

Photograph: Maxim Boon

There are a lot more people to be found here, and for three very good reasons: KFC, Grill’d and Mad Mex. Numerous delivery riders are parked up here, a hive of activity as orders are picked up and whisked away. Trade seems brisk for these fast-casual franchises, with barely a minute passing without multiple arrivals and departures.

Oxford Street

Oxford Street abandoned

Photograph: Maxim Boon

Even under the lockout regulations, finally lifted in January after six gruelling years, the bars and restaurants of this nightlife hub soldiered on. Stalwart institutions of Sydney’s gay village – the likes of Stonewall, the Oxford Hotel, Arq and Palms – were bowed but not broken by the lockout laws. However, tonight they sit empty and dark. While some businesses have been able to pivot their offering to offer delivery or takeaway, these nightclubs and bars have had no alternative but to close.

Taylor Square

Taylor Square under lockdown

Photograph: Maxim Boon

Seagulls and delivery riders: the only living things you’ll find around these parts at the moment. Car traffic is intermittent, but substantially below normal levels. With the street crossings now automated, so pedestrians need not touch any potentially infected buttons, the signal occasionally flashes green, beckoning no one to cross safely.


Darlinghurst under lockdown

Photograph: Maxim Boon

It’s eerily still by this usually buzzing stretch of Victoria Street. The Green Park, by far one of the most popular venues in the area, is totally dormant, as most pubs are at present. However, several restaurants in this part of Darlinghurst, that might otherwise continue to trade as takeaway-only venues, seemed to have decided to shut up shop as well.

William Street

Williams Street under lockdown

Photograph: Maxim Boon

It’s startling to see not a single vehicle on what is usually one of the busiest traffic arteries in the city. It might occasionally be this quiet in the small hours of the morning, but at 9pm on a Saturday night, this is like the first act of a zombie apocalypse movie. And yet, there's something undeniably tranquil about this absence of engines; the relentless rumble of the city hushed to a distant hum.

Kings Cross

Kings Cross under lockdown

Photograph: Maxim Boon

Before anyone cracks wise about Kings Cross being DOA long before physical distancing came into effect, there are certain corners of the suburb that have always remained vibrant, despite the lockout laws. The iconic Coke sign usually looks down on a busy intersection, while the Kings Cross Hotel just opposite welcomes hundreds of punters on the average weekend. But not tonight. Save for the occasional pedestrian and, of course, the odd passing delivery rider, the Cross is quiet.

Missing your usual watering hole? Check out what Sydney's best bars are offering for takeaway and delivery.

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