Landmark venue, the Imperial Hotel in Erskineville has been forced to shut its doors for 72 hours, effective 7pm Friday, after a targeted operation by NSW police allegedly found staff using drugs on site while working.
The operation was conducted by NSW Police, in conjunction with the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR), after concerns were raised in connection to drug detections, issues with intoxication and reportedly ongoing disturbance issues from patrons leaving the venue.
Fairfax reports that Police raided the venue, made famous by being featured in seminal Australian film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, last Saturday night, and have subsequently charged two staff members with drug offences after officers witnessed them taking ecstasy before continuing to sell alcohol to patrons.
“Bar staff were observed openly consuming illicit drugs while performing their duties,” said the OLGR in a statement. A number of “intoxicated and drug affected patrons” were also allegedly seen on the site and inspectors also claim to have been offered illicit drugs.
“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,” OLGR Director of Compliance and Enforcement Anthony Keon said.
Officers also flagged issues such as excessive noise, vandalism, public urination and defecation, instances of patrons falling asleep in the venue and a woman who was found passed out in a toilet cubicle.
The OLGR also pointed the finger at the Hotel’s new management, the Spice Group International, run by Murat Kilic, who ran Spice Cellar in Martin Place before relocating the club to Erskineville this April, likely as a way to avoid the Sydney lockout zone.
“Without significant and material changes to the management and supervision of the venue the likelihood of further illegal activity occurring at the venue is extreme, and the only appropriate action is to close the venue,” said Anthony Keon.
Residents and patrons alike have noticed venues in the city’s inner west have become noticeably busier since the controversial lockout legislation was introduced in February 2014, as many punters from across the CBD and Kings Cross have migrated to Sydney’s surrounding suburbs in a bid to dodge the 1:30am lockouts and 3am last drink restrictions.
The Imperial Hotel has posted a notice on their Facebook page, thanking patrons for their support and advising that it will re-open 7pm on Monday 22nd June.