We’ve already seen Soho, Backroom and Trademark close since the introduction of the Sydney lockout laws and now we can add Hugos Lounge to that list.
According to Fairfax, the 15 year-old Kings Cross venue went into voluntary administration on Wednesday and will close this weekend, unless a new buyer can be found before then.
Owner Dave Evans has blamed restrictive liquor laws for a 60 percent decline in revenue since 2012. While the lockout wasn’t enforced until 2014, the initial set of new liquor laws were introduced in 2012. Since then Hugos Lounge has cut 100 staff and changed their trading hours. A further 70 people will lose their jobs as a result of the closure.
“We said it would destroy business, we said it would destroy staff,” Evans told Fairfax of the lockout laws. “And here we are.”
The laws, passed in January 2014, have enforced a 1.30am lockout in Kings Cross and Sydney CBD and stopped alcohol service after 3am.
In its bustling heyday, Hugos saw 6000 patrons through the door each week. It also never received a strike from the Government’s three strike disciplinary scheme for breaking the terms of a liquor license.
“Hugos had no trouble with alcohol, which as it turns out is more than Barry O’Farrell can say.” Evans said, alluding to the fact that the former NSW Premier who introduced the laws resigned from office after accepting and failing to declare a gift of Penfolds Grange.
The lockout laws have sent patrons looking for alternate venues outside the lockout zone and has seen them desert Kings Cross for places like Newtown or Pyrmont. Evans is calling for the government to apply them everywhere or not at all so all venues are on a level playing field.
Fairfax reports City of Sydney research found that footpath traffic in Kings Cross had decreased by about 80 percent in between 2012 and 2014.
“The government doesn’t really want these businesses to exist,” said Hugos licensee Adam Hart.
The Hugos group’s Manly venue is set to remain open.