With just over a week of trading post-lockouts, many venue operators believe more promotion of the fact that Sydney once more enjoys a late-night scene is needed, particularly for tourists.
The first week of trade post-lockouts, and the first weekend in particular was a calm one. While many people enjoyed moving from venue to venue after 1:30am, the heavy rain and back-to-work timing meant that many people still stayed away.
Kenny Graham, director of Mary’s Group which operators Mary’s Underground within the CBD, believes there is another factor at work keeping people away. He believes the recent bushfire disasters have left people skittish, particularly within the tourism market.
“It’s a very hard thing to transfer into data currently. The major news story of the past few months, the national bushfire disaster, has had such a deep impact across the board that it’s impossible to gauge market nuances around this. We have heard stories of CBD and Harbour hotels trading at 50% occupancy, or at least well below the norm, that has removed the usually rampant tourism foot traffic.”
Graham told Australian Hotelier that he believes the onus is on operators, the media, and the government to get the word out that Sydney is a fantastic place to visit and socialise in.
“From a Sydneysider perspective, I think there’s a general feel of optimism, but they’re almost waiting to be told when it’s fun enough to come back. That’s the job of us, the venue operator and you, the media. We will keep pushing boundaries where possible, but it’s a team effort. Venues, media and government need to work together to depict an optimistic future for our city’s night life.”
David Thompson, general manager of Verandah on Martin Place agrees, saying more needs to be done to promote the fact that Sydney is once more a late-night city.
Verandah hosts a Latin nightclub, Candelaria, on Saturdays from 10pm which is often frequented by tourists from South and Central America, and Spain. During the lockouts, the nightclub used signage in Spanish and Portuguese and employed a Spanish-speaker to greet guests at the door to explain if they left the hotel after 1:30am, they would not be allowed back in. While that caused great bemusement at the time, Thompson says now that ingrained behaviour has to be corrected – and is calling on government bodies to help with that messaging.
“Tourists don’t really get it yet. Tourism NSW needs to do a better job of letting people know that we are open for business. My hope is that they get behind us and the messaging that we’re back and we’re ready to party.”
While there is still a way to go, Thompson said it was good to see people enjoying the city’s nightlife once more. Candelaria traded until 4am on Saturday with last drinks at 3:30am, and many guests popped in and out off the venue in the early hours of the morning.
“There was a lot more traffic in and out of the venue after 1:30am, as people checked out different bars, which was good to see.”