One of Kings Cross’ most well-loved venues Hugos Lounge was forced to close its doors in August 2015, becoming one of many venues in the area to have fallen victim to a drop in business since Sydney’s lockout laws were introduced.
Now, News Corp Australia reports the Bayswater Road venue is set to open as a pop-up bar in February 2017, before resuming regular trade in August, after it was purchased by the operator of Casablanca in Double Bay, Eric Jury.
Jury is, perhaps surprisingly, a fan of the lockout laws. “I think the lockout laws has actually done good job of clearing out some of the trash in the area and I think it actually has a much nicer atmosphere compared to what it used to be like,” he says.
“Hopefully this could be the beginning of a new era for this venue and that street in particular. I’m hoping that we can bring the people back and make the area as popular as it once was.”
Jury will also consult with former owner Dave Evans on his plans for the bar, and says he’s already begun installing a 730 square-metre bar with soundproofing to comply with noise restrictions.
Kings Cross Liquor Accord boss Doug Grand believes the reopening of Hugos could go a long way to reviving the area’s nightlife.
“That street has been fairly depressed since Hugos closed so if the right operator can come in and work around the decibel reading restrictions then great,” Grand says. “We are still hoping for changes to the lockout laws but at this point there hasn’t been an indication of when that might happen.”
After Hugos Lounge closed last year, 70 former staff members who were made redundant were reportedly considering class action against the NSW Government.
News of Hugos’ reopening comes shortly after the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistic and Research announced it would be embarking on a fresh investigation into the lockouts after revelations that violence at The Star casino has been three times worse than reported since the laws came into effect.
The NSW Government is also expected to make a decision by the end of 2016 which could see the lockout laws extended by half an hour, as a result of recommendations from the Callinan review earlier this year.
Watch: Closed Sydney – Lockouts Timelapse