Erskineville’s Imperial Hotel has closed indefinitely as the spectre of ‘lockouts’ logic seeps into suburban scapegoats.

It took just three months for new operators Spice Group to lose control of an institutional venue as it became a hot-spot for Sydney’s displaced late-night party scene.

The LGBTI* institution changed hands in April, with Spice Group bringing its Spice Cellar brand to the large format venue, just a couple of blocks off Newtown’s main drag, King Street.

But quickly the new leaseholders drew the attention of OLGR authorities, and a succession of violations brought about a highly publicised 72-hour closure in June.

OLGR cited the prevalence of drugs, with staff “observed openly consuming” ecstasy and inspectors reportedly offered illicit drugs. Two staff members were subsequently charged with drug offences.

The venue went on the front foot, announcing plans to instigate its own restrictions on late-night revellers and strict new management control.

However the proclamations appeared to not make it into action, as last Friday night OLGR again slapped a 72-hour closure on the hotel, citing observations of liquor offences and drunkenness including a patron licking a spilt drink from the floor while an RSA Marshall laughed, and a man seen providing white powder for a woman to snort before handing over money.

Seemingly too big a blow from which to recover, sources have confirmed to PubTIC that the management issued termination notices to all employees on Friday night and that the current operation is closed indefinitely.

Spice Group has more than once pointed to the negative influence of the CBD trade restrictions, ‘locking out’ late-night patrons and stopping drink service at 3am.

The Imperial Hotel has long been a favourite late-trader in the Newtown district, and has attracted a disproportionate share of this demographic since CBD and Kings Cross trade restrictions have forced them to find alternatives. Its dungeon-like basement has long been a magnet for dark-loving and often drug-affected devotees of the early hours.

Coupled with obviously less than adequate provision for this trend, the venue has become a microcosm of the increasingly targeted late reveller, and the face of the conflict between them and authorities.

Sadly, the Hotel’s demise is likely to be trumpeted by champions of increased trade restrictions – in apparent belief that denying this patron type a place to go will negate its existence.

Owner and front man of Spice Group, Murat Kilic, did not respond to PubTIC’s request for comment in time for this bulletin.

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