Sydney nightlife operators have two minds about the latest round of restrictions imposed by the NSW government on Friday. On the one hand, they make sense and came as no surprise. On the other hand, they are another devastating blow from which some may not recover.
Although the premises were not expressly ordered due to the latest change, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has banned dancing and singing until January 27 – effectively forcing nightclubs to close and other places to cancel upcoming events in which the dance floor is central.
The changes take effect from Saturday, but Friday afternoon there were casualties. The Tamworth Country Music Festival, which was due to start in a week, has been postponed until April. The Metro Theater canceled a Taylor Swift party – the scene of a premier Omicron super-broadcast event – hours before it opened. Darlinghurst’s basement nightclub, The Cliff Dive, announced via Instagram that its doors will be closed until January 27.
But for Craig Petersen, the stress of running a small concert venue amid the raging Omicron epidemic in Sydney had already peaked before Mr Perrottet announced the changes. Hours before the press conference, he announced via social media that the Lazy Bones Lounge in Marrickville – which he co-owns with his wife Alexandra Heffernan – would close for the remainder of January.
He’s exhausted and angry after weeks of dealing with the cancellation of half of his scheduled groups due to a contract with COVID-19 or being close contacts, and customers who didn’t show up or who requested refunds when the shows could not take place.
“We have a few groups tonight and tomorrow, and that’s it for us,” he said. Mr Petersen said sites like his have been treated as “non-essential damage” and collateral, with the state expecting them to stay open and continue to employ people, while encouraging customers to stay away.
“Why would any business say, I’m open now, but by the way, I’m unstaffed. I’m open, but no one is coming … Why would you be in business? “
Other sites face similar difficulties. Mary’s Group co-owner Jake Smyth said Lansdowne and Mary’s Underground have booked shows throughout the Christmas period – but over the past two weeks “not a small number [were] canceled ”by artists and promoters for“ various reasons ”which were all“ quite correct ”.