The sex industry is still keeping it up.
Liquor, sex, strip clubs, bars, music and fast food have been the traditional means of business within Kings Cross for decades. But in the last few months the streets of Kings Cross have been littered with for lease signs and the trade of Kings Cross is dramatically changing.
The unique red light district has been home to drunken revelry since 1905 and one of the biggest icons in Sydney’s history. In the early years, the name Kings Cross has meant more than just a place to drink and have sex. Songs and poems have been written about it, movies and TV shows have been filmed there and some of the most influential musicians have played there, but things that you could get away with in the 70s aren’t as easy now. The Kings Cross culture of debaucherous mayhem is quite rapidly coming to a halt with local foot traffic dropping 84 per cent since the beginning of the year. Along the 300m strip over 35 shops are currently up for rent, which has also led to business revenue dropping 40 per cent. Partygoers are saying goodbye to the hustle and bustle of the famous red-light district and taking their kebabs with them.
However, this rapid decrease in people taking to the streets of Kings Cross hasn’t come out of nowhere. Violence on the streets of Kings Cross has always been an issue, but in the last few years the Cross has seen a number of shocking one punch attacks that have claimed the lives of few and severely injured many. The government’s action against this has been to change the name of the attack to coward’s punch, and to also create 1:30am lockout laws as well as drinking restrictions. The laws have been introduced in the Sydney CBD area as well as parts of Surry Hills, from Darlinghurst to The Rocks, and from Kings Cross to Cockle Bay, with the aim to keep people from staying in the district too long.
Gone are the days of bar hopping through the Cross on a trashy night out until 6am. No, now you must commit to a venue before 1:30am. Trapped! Or you have to rush to get into a venue before 1:30, guy chasing you, losing a shoe, Cinderella-style. No longer can you get served at the bottle’o after 10pm, have shots after 12am or buy drinks after 3am. No, now you must get as many tequila shots as you can before the clock strikes 12… and then pass out.
The party scene is rapidly dissipating and it has had a significant effect on bar and night club business. Kings Cross regular Zara Luckey, said “There are less people around [Kings Cross] and it’s not as fun. You hardly seem to find a club that’s full of people.”
This has seemingly had a direct effect on club and bar owners within the Cross. An owner of a popular club in Kings Cross told The Newsroom that business for clubs and bars has plummeted.
“We are struggling. People no longer want to commit to a venue before 1:30am when there are other districts around Sydney without these restrictions.”
Other areas around Sydney, such as Double Bay, Newtown and Eastern Suburbs, are becoming increasingly popular as party districts due to the fact they don’t have lockout laws imposed. “Everyone seems to be going to either Newtown, Bondi Junction, Double Bay or just their local pubs… there are way more people going out in these areas and you’re able to stay out longer and move between different pubs/clubs,” Ms Luckey said.
Kings Cross owners, promoters and socialites are doing the same to resume trading and avoid 1:30am lockout. Longtime businessmen in the after-dark economy, Daniel Ibrahim, Shane Moran, Nathan Jolliffe, Liam Constantine and Carlos Raso have now launched El Topo Basement, a new venue in the Eastern Hotel at Bondi Junction. The club’s marketing manager, Mr Raso said the shift of bars and nightclubs to the suburbs was a direct response of the lock-out laws in the Cross.
“Lock-outs are slowly killing what the Cross used to be. The challenge for that area is that it will need to try to evolve into something else – there will be more restaurants rather than nightclubs and the result will be totally different to what the Cross has been in the past. There are venues popping up all over the place and everyone is expanding out of Kings Cross because they’re looking to survive.”
The plans for the Cross now seem to be residential, however, the late night party scene is not compatible for the long-term. Hotels are being sold and turned into apartments, with The Crest, one of the largest mid-range hotels in the area, turning its 231 rooms into apartments. “In the past year, 1800 hotel rooms have been taken out of the area,” said LJ Hooker’s director of commercial property, Warren Duncan. “Developers are really interested in two and three-star star boutique hotels.” The drinking and partying may be on its way out to make way for residence, but the sex industry is still going strong.
The red-light district hasn’t quite made its way out of Kings Cross just yet. According to a prostitute at a popular Kings Cross brothel, business within the Kings Cross sex industry is booming as a result of the lockout. “People who get locked out and have been out partying/drinking don’t want to go home so early, so they want to find something else to do and come to brothels,” she said. She believes that Kings Cross’ red-light district is a part of its history and is sure to stay, “I don’t think the red light district will ever move but there already is a big industry for the party scene in the Eastern Suburbs.”
So as we see the partygoers stumbling out of Kings Cross and creating a new party scene elsewhere, the sex industry remains to hold the fort for the red-light culture and give the new residents something to look forward to. – Jacinta Scott
Top photo from Peter Schlyter’s Flickr photostream.