The Sydney and Kings Cross ‘lockout’ laws have claimed another victim, with the acclaimed Hugos Lounge going into voluntary administration.
HLB Mann Judd reported to PubTIC that the business has lost $6 million annual turnover since the trading restrictions began in 2012, but that they still hope to sell it as a freehold going concern.
“We will meet with the financier and get the numbers together, and reassess after we look at this weekend’s trading,” said HLB advisor, Andrew Needham.
“We’ll almost have to take it on a day-by-day basis, as we simply don’t have the resources to trade for an extended time.”
Hugos is a multiple award-winning business that has never had a “strike” or problem with violence. It has been an executive members of the Kings Cross Licensing Accord for 15 years and worked for the betterment of Kings Cross as an entertainment destination.
Owner Dave Evans reports the venue has been “crippled” by unconsidered trade restrictions.
“We borrowed against a property we thought had value … but that value has been wiped away by a Government that didn’t listen to us,” Evans told the ABC.
“We were geared for a business that turned over $10 million a year, [but] we can no longer service our debts.
Citing a 60 per cent drop in trade, resulting from 36 strict conditions placed on it and other Kings Cross licensed premises, Hugos has actually fared better than most in light of operator feedback and reported research by City of Sydney saying foot traffic in the area has decreased 80 per cent.
Hugos had already cut trading hours and shed 100 jobs, and now the remaining 70 staff have been told they too may no longer have a position.
Kings Cross Liquor Accord CEO Doug Grand lamented to PubTIC that Hugos is undeniably the latest victim of the O’Farrell Government’s flawed “one-size-fits-all” policy.
“The Government’s approach is in urgent need of review – of actual strategies, on an evidence basis, before further well-managed, co-operative and collaborative venues also cease to trade.”
Evans was particularly critical of the blanket use of ID scanners required at every licensed venue, where no-one can enter without valid identification between Friday and Monday – no exception.
Previously seeing 6,000 patrons a week without incident, the venue was bundled into a category not trusted to serve sophisticated drinks or glassware after midnight. Evans is justifiably embittered by the blanket approach.
“Hugos had no trouble with alcohol, which as it turns out is more than Barry O’Farrell can say.”
Hugos joins the growing list of “lockout” casualties, which now includes: Trademark Hotel, Soho Bar, The Backroom, Flinders Bar, and The Exchange.