How World Bar and Candys Apartment kept Kings Cross dancing

Photo credit: Liam @ Hoboincognito. Article images supplied by World Bar.

In the two years since Sydney’s lockout laws were introduced, Kings Cross has been firmly in the spotlight and the headlines haven’t always been good.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for Sydney’s historic clubbing district. Head down Bayswater Rd on any given weekend and you’ll find that clubs like World Bar and Candys Apartment have thrived despite the odds, retaining their crown as two of Sydney’s most pumping nightspots. Between them, they’ve got plenty to celebrate: World Bar is about to mark four years of their Saturday night bash Cakes, Wednesdays at The Wall are still heaving and tonight Candys Apartment will bring Joel Fletcher through for a roof-raising set.

With thousands of punters passing through the side-by-side venues every weekend, the team behind the clubs are keen to dispel the idea that Kings Cross is dead. To find out how they’ve kept the party going, inthemix spoke to Candys Apartment’s Booking Agent/Events Manager Jarrad Bodeker, World Bar’s Marketing Manager Clint O’Hanlon and Promoter/Event Coordinator Matt Pilkington about lockouts, adapting to life as a destination venue and the path forward.

First up, how have you guys survived when so many other clubs in Kings Cross haven’t?

 I think one of the main reasons Candy’s has survived is that we’ve got a really strong cult following with lots of loyal regulars who come down week in, week out. And we’ve been a premier club at this level since 2003, we’re known all over the world.

Matt: I would say consistency. We didn’t change our formula too much when the lockouts came in. Of course we’ve evolved with the times, but we’d already established our name and product enough that people knew they could rely on us.

Clint: With that consistency though comes innovation. We’re consistently innovating, trying to change the building, change the nights that we have on, make sure we have a plethora of different genres represented all week. Lots of people know us as a Saturday night dance venue, but most people don’t know us as a Monday night jazz venue and vice versa. The people who come on Monday may not come on every other night. It’s consistency in innovation because people don’t want the same thing forever.

What are your busiest nights at the moment?

Jarrad: Saturday’s always the flagship day, so that’s the busiest. But we have various events on Friday nights.

Matt: Without describing one night as being more successful than other, as they’re all pretty busy, I’d have to say Saturday night is obviously the flagship night. That’s Cakes and as of March, it’s been going for four years. But Friday’s got live music so fans of that come in then too – there’s a lot happening.

I know that pre-lockouts, there was a big culture of people going to the Cross for a night out on Wednesdays. Does that still happen?

Clint: Of course. I think we’re more of a destination venue, now. Whereas before people would hop around the Cross, now I think they are coming specifically to come to The Wall on Wednesdays.

Matt: There’s not really anything else like The Wall. In Kings Cross there wasn’t anything like that at it’s inception either, and that’s why it was so strong. But it’s the same now. It’s still our second strongest consistent night, to Saturdays.

Jarrad: We now only trade on Friday and Saturday nights, and long weekends.

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What are some of the biggest events or acts you’ve had through since lockouts came in?

Matt: Honestly, we’ve had so many huge nights. We’ve had nights where What So Not have come and played with Nina Las Vegas internationals like Breach, Louisa and Maelstrom and very recently Taiki Nulight. But also nights where our residents have waved the flag for locals. Guys like Go Freek, Dom Dolla, Torren Foot, LO’99, Danny T, Terrace. There’s so many.

Clint: We might have one headliner and then residents who fly the flag for us. They’re a very important part of our club.

Jarrad: We’ve had LOUDPVCK, Party Thieves, SCNDL and Mashd N Kutcher to name a few.

Have lockouts changed the way you approach booking acts or programming your week?

Matt:  Yes and no. We haven’t really changed the formula too much, because it was still working, it was dependable. At the same time, there is a large emphasis on the local scene for us because no DJ has an understanding of what works quite like the locals.

Clint: In terms of bookings though – without jumping into the finances of the lockouts – instantly that week after they were introduced, we had less money to spend on the internationals. We had to go to our locals and say, “Guys, we want to stay open and we want to keep booking you, we really have to meet in the middle”. Like, we want to give you as many gigs as possible and the more you help us, the more you play. We want to keep fostering this community but we’re taking a massive hit and can’t afford the same rates as before. And a lot of our locals came to the table, which comes down to the community around the club.

Jarrad: Of course. We don’t get to nurture as much young talent due to the reduced trading hours. DJs like Alison Wonderland and Golden Features all started off playing Candys years ago, so we always have a good base of DJs starting from the bottom and working up to the top.

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What time, before lockouts came in, would you have typically shut on a Saturday night?

Clint: 5 or 6. We would never typically shut before 4am.

Jarrad: We used to shut at 6am, pretty much every Sunday morning.

Clint: But now, even though there’s a cease of alcohol service, there’s still a large contingent of people who want to keep partying. So we’re not going to kick them out. That makes no sense. They’re the people keeping us open, so as long as they want to dance, and as long as they’re okay to drink soft drinks, we’ll stay open.

Jarrad: But even now with lockouts, some weeks we shut at 5 in the morning. There’s no alcohol, but we just let everyone dance and have a good time and wait until the trains start up.

Clint: We’ll stay open as long as people want to keep partying.

How has your staffing changed since lockouts came in?

Jarrad: Considerably. I’ve had to get rid of a lot of event staff, a lot of bar tenders have been let go. It used to be people who’d go to uni during the week and rely on weekend bartending to pay their rent, to pay their bills. Now we don’t have the hours for them anymore. A lot of people have also quit out of frustration too.

Clint: Yeah, we lost a lot of managers. When you work in hospitality you already get treated like a criminal. You’re a night worker, so you’re not really part of the day clique, and the authorities often resent having to working at night too. So you already didn’t feel great and the media made you feel like you were peddling something bad. When you’re already under that pressure and then it doubles… we lost three managers straight away because of the stress, they just straight up said they couldn’t do it anymore.

“When you work in hospitality you already get treated like a criminal”

In terms of bar staff, we lost 40% revenue in a day. So we tried to keep as many people on as possible and again, we reached out to our DJs and said, guys, we have to shave the shifts down a little bit –  either everybody drops a few hours or some people [will have to go]. Then some people just fell on their sword and said, look, I’ll find work somewhere else. Because the bar staff are tight, they’re another community that you’ve got to look after.

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It sounds like there’s a lot of community support among the people that you work with, then.

Clint: Yeah, that’s why it’s been so hard the last couple of years being slammed in the media at every turn,  in all the mainstream papers and on television. Every time you hear a radio interview it’s about the victims of violence and it’s like, we do nothing but try and create positivity. Our whole industry is based on making people feel welcome. It’s getting harder and harder.

Matt: Media’s definitely perpetuated the issue. Kings Cross isn’t dead. We all still have jobs, there’s still a lot of people who come to our venue.

Clint: Yeah, thousands of people a week come to Cross just to come to a couple of venues.

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