Whilst it only happens every four years the current World Cup demonstrates that Sydneysiders do love to party in the wee small hours, given the right situation. Clubs and pubs throughout the city have been packed in recent days as football fans cheer on their favourites until as late as 3.00am.
There’s definitely alcohol involved to fuel the fervour but on the whole the atmosphere is friendly and sociable, despite the fact that rivalries are well exposed. The celebrations in large are taking place outside the 1.30am lockout zone of Kings Cross and the CBD where the new legislation has had some impact on curtailing a drinking culture that had got out of control.
Sadly, it’s also impacted severely on any pretence Sydney had to being an international 24-hour party town. Crowd numbers have been decimated in traditional binging precincts like the Cross and clubbers have moved on to other areas like Double Bay, outside the 1.30am lockout.
Yet it’s not only the alcohol scene that has changed in recent years, affecting the maddening hours of midnight to dawn. Try looking for somewhere to sit down and enjoy a meal in Sydney after 11.00pm and you will soon find the options are slim pickings indeed. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, you would never go hungry in Kings Cross, for example, with venues such as Sweethearts and the Bourbon trading around the clock and offering sustenance at just about any hour. The Piccolo Bar did not open until 6:00pm and traded right throughout the night with a hot and welcoming bowl of lentil soup available at anytime.
Perhaps this city has turned its back on what was once a burgeoning nocturnal lifestyle despite the hordes of rampaging clubbers that run amok on a Friday and Saturday night. Maybe we are just working too hard and are simply too buggered to leave the pad after 10.30pm. You could also argue that technology has contained us at home with hours wasted on Facebook, surfing the net and even trawling for porn (as some do). Look at the rubbish that is served up after midnight on free-to-air television, 50 per cent of it is infomercials, and you will soon realise that late night viewers are treated with contempt. Hands up those readers who can remember returning home at 2.30am, turning on the box, and revelling in a veritable festival of B-grade noir, horror and sci-fi movies.
It almost seems like we are being forced to switch off our intellect after midnight. No more debating the meaning of life over a late-night espresso in the Piccolo Bar or grooving to a 4.00am jam session of our best jazz musicians at the Paradise Club. There’s plenty of alcohol available to numb your brain, and sadly little in the way of real intellectual stimulation.
Clover Moore has often endorsed the concept of a 24-hour city and maybe now’s the time to seize the initiative. Roll out the giant chess set near St James station and have it available 24/7; open the City of Sydney Library to late-night bookworms; convert the lower Town Hall into a grindhouse cinema catering to both the city’s homeless and cult movie buffs alike; organise midnight poetry readings in convenience stores across the city; and broadcast funky sounds over the CBD emergency warning system.
It used to be a joke with people visiting Adelaide that they found the city closed especially after 6:00pm. Perhaps a similar tag could now be applied to Sydney after midnight? The booze might still be pouring but ‘culture’ has definitely shut up shop.