The blame game: What's next for Kings Cross clubbing?

The middle-aged make-up of the panel was largely reflected in the audience, with a string of “long-term Kings Cross residents” lining up to make statements vaguely disguised as questions. One woman who organises tours of the area compared the Saturday night scenes to The Day of the Locust, which climaxes with the streets of Hollywood becoming a war-zone. The mood of the forum swung from sober analysis to finger-pointing.

One point on which there seemed to be consensus was the need for better transport options out of the Cross. Currently there’s a gap between the last train at 1:44am and the next at 5:14am that leaves the only option of roving the streets in search of a cab. Licensed venues in the Cross, however, were a contentious topic. Paul Nicolaou, whose role as CEO of AHA puts him squarely in the corner of the bars and clubs, stressed the wider issues. “There has to be a level of personal responsibility,” he said, more than once. “A lot of people are coming into the Cross area already pre-fuelled on alcohol and drugs. I’m not here to defend alcohol. Most people drink alcohol. We have to say there needs to be a zero tolerance on any crime.”

A few days earlier the Herald had run a front page feature with the title ‘Top cop’s grim warning for Kings Cross’ above a photo of NSW Police Assistant Commisioner Mark Murdoch looking dutifully grim. His pull quote read: “Those who stay out after midnight are either going to become…a victim or an offender.” On the panel, Murdoch suggested his comments had been shaped into a sensational soundbite. “What I also said, as has been borne out by the data, Kings Cross is as safe as it has ever been, notwithstanding the tragic circumstances of Thomas Kelly’s death,” he told the room. “I did say that if you’re out after midnight, it’s highly likely that you would be a victim or an offender, if – and this is the qualifier that didn’t get into the article – you’re affected by alcohol.”

Holding his line, Nicolaou cut in: “Mark, you and the coppers do a fantastic job, but to say it’s just alcohol when it’s not just alcohol – it’s drugs as well.” Don Weatherburn, Director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics, seemed to have the final word on that line of argument. “The honest answer is nobody really knows what proportion of the drinkers in Kings Cross are affected by amphetamines or any other drug,” he said. “We do know from general population surveys that the vast majority of heavy drinkers don’t use amphetamines, but on the other hand, the vast majority of amphetamine users are also heavy drinkers. For my money, any reasonable person would assume alcohol plays the dominant role in this, and amphetamines play, if any role, a secondary role.”

Questions from the floor led the discussion back to licensed premises, with Clover Moore pressed on the 19 venues in the Cross with 24-hour licenses. “24-hour trading was introduced in 1989 by the Greiner government, was extended by the Fahey government, and continued,” she said. “I really think the conversation we need to be having now is, do we want to continue in perpetuity? Other cities around the world aren’t trading 24 hours.” So where does all this talk lead for Kings Cross clubs? I sat in the audience half-expecting the announcement of a curfew. Instead, Hospitality Minister George Souris said he was set to launch a four-day compliance audit of 58 venues in Kings Cross. By the forum’s end, this was the only firm plan announced.

In a seven-minute segment, The 7:30 Report’s trip to Kings Cross does show some ugly scenes. Its title, ‘What does a night in the Cross look like?’, works on the assumption that the target viewer hasn’t set foot there in recent memory. The ABC’s reporter Adam Harvey lingered around the area until after 3am, observing the movements of a Saturday night: bleary groups spilling along Darlinghurst Road, disordered taxi queues, a few arrests, and two irate girls who probably woke up Sunday afternoon hoping their grandparents aren’t devotees of The 7:30 Report. Then it’s off to St Vincent’s Hospital to see the aftermath of fights and seven-drinks-too-many. If transcendent moments happen on darkened dancefloors, the waiting room at St Vincent’s is definitely the flip-side.

I asked a friend who until recently worked behind the bar at one of the Kings Cross strip clubs for her impressions of the weekend traffic. “Friday and Saturday nights were horrendous to work,” she said. “It was always packed over-capacity full of aggressive drunk guys and bikies. It never felt out of control, but there were many fights between everyone: dancers, security, the patrons, but never involving the waitresses, so it always seemed you were looking from a distance. The younger guys had usually been previously denied entry to any other clubs. Sunday was for all the people who had not stopped from Saturday and were coming down but didn’t want to call it a night.”

Comments arrow left

i_have_ADD said on the 27th Jul, 2012

a worthy topic to go in-depth on - very interesting read!


Moko said on the 27th Jul, 2012

I live in the X and think this is a really damn good point of view.


spuntin said on the 27th Jul, 2012

Finally, a voice devoid of the sensationalistic filler that is so prominent in our media. Well done Jack.


pomrocks said on the 27th Jul, 2012

jack kudos, this is an excellent, well researched peice. if only clover would hire you as an advisor :thumb:

i strongly agree with paul strange's comment;

People will come in and stay the duration, especially if we%u2019ve got a decent artist. At the end of the night you%u2019re tired, you%u2019ve had a good night and you just want to get home. If the club is closing at the peak time of the night, there%u2019s a lot of adrenaline on the street. With late licenses, people leave at different times, so there%u2019s not a mass exodus.%u201D

longer opening times means less drunk people forced onto the streets imo


Mjb86 said on the 27th Jul, 2012

Good job Jack

I don't think the problem is with clubs, drugs or alcohol. Like a few people have pointed out, the majority of punters go out, enjoy themselves and go home without getting in to an altercation. Why must we always be shifting the blame away from the individual. Lowest common denominators will always be lowest common denominators and it takes no more than a quick glance to get you in a fight.

For some people the cross is about showing off, whether it's getting in to a fight or doing laps of the main strip while you bang out the latest Maximum Bass CD.


Mjb86 said on the 27th Jul, 2012

@ Pomrocks

I like the longer trading hour idea too, and any reduction in the number of people on the street at one time is ultimately a good thing.

I just don't think it will have an impact on the 'packs' that roam the streets. Sometimes these guys aren't even going to clubs.

It's a good harm minimisation tactic though, just need to couple if with some 'judge dredd laying down the law' on the scum that roam the streets.


JacquiM said on the 27th Jul, 2012

This is a great read. I really think the focus of the authorities needs to lie on addressing the culture of violent behaviour. There are groups of people who just go out seeking trouble, and this has nothing to do with the venues or their restrictions. I'd love to see more being done to minimise violent attacks in the community, and introduce harder penalties for offenders.


Billroyguy said on the 27th Jul, 2012

Great article, very insightful.
I have always echoed Chalak's argument in reference to bashings and violence at night. I think Australia needs to take a no tolerance stance on it. I always think about that violence against women comapign.. It almost suggests that violence, to some degree is alright, and there is a line thats drawn when Australia finally says NO. Maybe Australia should say no to violence, fullstop?


pandapro said on the 27th Jul, 2012

Great article. I don't think I've ever read editorial as good on inthemix...


m_xt said on the 27th Jul, 2012

As said transport is key! Remember having so much trouble with taxis when I used to hit up the x.


james223 said on the 27th Jul, 2012

Every time I end up in the cross I usually have to walk half way to town hall if its 4ish. Transport is non existent at peak times there.


Danny_P-Man said on the 27th Jul, 2012

Great read, pretty good to hear the return of the bourbon as well...


GoodLove said on the 27th Jul, 2012

another bang on article Jack, way to keep raising the bar


JoeMiller1988 said on the 30th Jul, 2012

%u201CWe are so well-off here, and yet we%u2019re so angry and unhappy %u2013 so prepared to strike out. We need to be talking about that, as a community.%u201D

Excellent point, and the real issue which moral panics distract us from.


Dubz said on the 31st Jul, 2012

24 licensing has nothing to do with the problem - most fights happen between 12-2am.
They need proper transport, flexible cab changeovers, all night trains (so the Westies can get out easily rather than drinking more to try and keep themselves going till the first trains start), venues managing who they serve, strip joints being checked up on for their adherence to RSA, and above all - more police on Darlinghurst Road, Bayswater and Victoria Street.


frase1 said on the 31st Jul, 2012

Yes Jack! Hit the nerve on this article - top notch mate.


Oli-G said on the 31st Jul, 2012

I agree, more longer licenses are needed. Why should I be forced home at 3:00 If I dont want to be??

Although these venues would need a bit of extra security because its inevitable that you'll get some deadheads. I think we need to look at our society and what is causing this problem on a deeper level.


home_spun said on the 31st Jul, 2012

Really great article, intelligent, objective and articulate. I hope it lands on the screens on some of the people formulating these next steps.


dasdasdas said on the 31st Jul, 2012

The problem is the types of people that go clubbing here. Ive just come back from tomorrowland and a trip around Europe. Nothing like this ever happens, because the people are just chill about everything. In Aus everyone tries to out do one another by being the biggest, being the sluttiest its just shit. I hate going out her, Especially the dress codes at some of these places. Its ridiculous. Im all for the longer night policies. Cant see myself starting a night at 10pm ever again.


adamcarter said on the 1st Aug, 2012

It has nothing to do with the venues, trading hours, or any of that crap. Zero tolerance policing is the only way. Australians generally have lost all respect for any form of authority. People don't fight in Ibiza because they know if they do they will get the absolute shit beaten out of them by the police. Political correctness has failed miserably. Police need to start beating people first, asking questions later.


meldavid said on the 1st Aug, 2012

Take it to the bush! Doof parties are about to get more popular now.


muse said on the 1st Aug, 2012

bloody good article JackT.

/I cracked up imagining you interviewing busty waitresses in strip joints :-D

Juggalo Muli

Juggalo Muli said on the 2nd Aug, 2012

Agreed with the tomorrowland comment.

More people than you will ever see here.

Yet hardly any police, enough security to make it safe, but really not that many compared to the amount of people.

I did not see one bit of trouble or agression the entire 3 days! People just having fun. Even if someone was being a dickhead and bumped into you, it was just a sorry and move on.

Not sure why we are so fucked up and agressive here, but it's what puts me off going out here. It's a real shame as we could have a decent scene without the dickheads.

Attitude change is desperately needed.


ratticus said on the 2nd Aug, 2012

Great read, well done Jack for a well thought out piece.


mik91 said on the 2nd Aug, 2012

Whilst i never been to sydney or kings cross, I do think they can take some ideas from what is happening up here in brisbane. Sure Brisbane's Fortitude Valley is not perfect and there will always be improvements that can be made, but at least the steps that have been taken in the last year or so have improved safety for patrons (In my opinion). Up here we have decent public transport. "Nightlink" busses which travel to along many major routes, have been introduced. They opperate roughly between the hours of 12am and 6am, till normall times kick back in. Also we have alot of cabs. Most of which que at specific places, with security to help keep things calm.

Most venues, if not all (not 100% sure of current legislation) have id scanners and many now have switched to plastic as a replacment for glasses. We also have a lockout system in place (which many agree is not effective) where by patrons cannot enter a venue after 3am, and all venues must close at 5am.

On the police side of things: I think the pressence is not to bad. But there could still be more

Whether some of these could help improve kings cross or not, i am not sure. I definately think limiting hours, like has been done here is brisbane is not the right course of action.

My 2c


RunningWithScissors said on the 2nd Aug, 2012

lol @ "long term residents" complaining about a 23-year-old licensing policy


DylanG said on the 2nd Aug, 2012

There are very good reasons why Warehouse parties and the Clubs outside Kings Cross are doing so well at the moment, and the dominant reason is The Cross. By the way, good read, here I was thinking ITM only reported on Daft Punk and Stereosonic related articles..oops! ;)


tigerace said on the 2nd Aug, 2012

Ive been reading articles on this website for at least 6 years and this is the most well written piece I have ever read. I cant praise you enough.

Well done!!!!!


Katems said on the 2nd Aug, 2012

I livedin Kings Cross for 5 years before moving OS. It was the best 5 years of my life. What most don't realise, is that the cross has one of the strongest sense of community you will find anywhere. I was single, female and in my mid 20's, often walked home at 3am and never felt in danger - why? Because there were police EVERYWHERE.

I agree with the club owners. People will drink, where there is a need, there will be businesses so if the real problem isn't addressed the problem won't go away.

I live in Singapore. People get wayyyeee drunker here and there is no RSA, I've seen people vomit and walk straight back into clubs which stay open till 3,4 or 5am, but there is no violence. Why? because the police DON'T MESS ABOUT. Get in a fight and everyone gets arrested and spends the night in a comfy cell.

It's not the police officers fault - they are severely understaffed. Lets face it they have been closing stations all over the state. We need the politicians to stop treating the clubs as a scape goat and actually address the social issue through law enforcement by providing more cops.

I am so sad to hear of my beautiful former home beeing criminalised


sorzy said on the 2nd Aug, 2012

kings Cross has now just become a political blame game for politicians to gain public support. Kings Cross is known world wide and is one of the biggest tourist hot spots in Australia. here are terrific venues to visit in Kings Cross and I think that the night life could be eventually killed if these Politician Fat Cats are allowed to destroy it. it's time for people to discover just what significant value Kings Cross is to Sydney, also the historical stories that come with the strip.

if nightspots in Kings Cross are forced to close early, it could lead to jobs being lost and venues that people have loved for many years being shut.Does Australia want to be turned into the laughing stock of the world simply because our politicians can't see past themselves?


mw233 said on the 2nd Aug, 2012

Great article, definately a good argument for later licenses over earlier ones.
Alot of the problems in the cross come from the wanna be thugs who dont even go into a club they are scum who lurk around looking for trouble.
There's to many cunts not to many drunks


tp88 said on the 3rd Aug, 2012

Fantastic article - i hope the people in power get a chance to read this.