Inner West Independent

New Newtown ‘no fun’

The Imperial Hotel Photo: Wikimedia

By Alexander Lewis
Indignant partygoers have taken to Facebook to vent their frustration at an increased police presence in the inner west after an iconic gay bar was forced to shut over the weekend.
Undercover police allegedly caught bar staff at The Imperial Hotel taking ecstasy during service last Friday night.
The NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) subsequently forced the Erskineville venue to close for 72 hours.
“The place [Sydney] has become a police state where fun is frowned upon,” Facebook user Julian Farrell wrote in response to the news.
“Officious regulations killed Oxford Street. Let’s do it to the inner west too!” Mr Farrell wrote.
“Officials raiding bars and clubs in Melbourne does not happen. The local cops have better things to do, like actually stopping crime.”
Blerina Dula wrote that the lockout laws introduced by the O’Farrell government last year were destroying the best suburbs in Sydney.
“There is no more fun to go out in Sydney (sic). (It) feels like you are controlled every step you take,” Ms Dula wrote.
The closure is the latest of a string of drug, alcohol and violence related incidents to plague the inner west this month.
While data released by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research in April revealed a decrease in violence across Sydney’s CBD, violent alcohol-related crimes in the Newtown area have surged by 18 percent, according to analysis of figures published by Fairfax Media on the weekend.
Residents were concerned acts of violence like the alleged bashing of a transgendered woman in Newtown earlier this month would become commonplace.
But police have repeatedly denied the displacement of crime to the inner west.
State Greens MP for Newtown Jenny Leong said there are concerns in the community about changes happening around the area at night.
“I’ve been talking with local residents, councillors, community groups, the police and local businesses to ensure we do what we can to protect the diverse, safe and vibrant vibe of Newtown,” Ms Leong said.
“We need to ensure that everyone who lives and spends time in Newtown can do so in a safe and welcoming environment that reflects the diversity and inclusivity of our local community.”
The OLGR director of compliance and enforcement Anthony Keon said in a statement last Friday the likelihood of further illegal activity occurring at The Imperial Hotel is extreme unless “significant” changes are made to the management of the venue.
“A situation where bar staff and patrons are openly consuming drugs at the venue, and where there have been repeated drug and intoxication issues, is completely unacceptable and shows that the venue has been operating with a complete disregard for its obligations and responsibilities,” Mr Keon said.
“The only appropriate action is to close the venue.”
Facebook user Darren Smith wrote that the venue had become “feral” under new management.
“Bring back gay management. At least they had more respect for the safety of others and the surrounding community,” Mr Smith wrote.
A City Hub reporter sought comment from The Imperial Hotel but was denied entry.