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The Best Sydney Bars for a Weekend Boogie

Forget about the week that was and celebrate the weekend that is on these Sydney dance floors.
By Tamar Cranswick
September 10, 2019

The Best Sydney Bars for a Weekend Boogie

Forget about the week that was and celebrate the weekend that is on these Sydney dance floors.
By Tamar Cranswick
September 10, 2019


Forget about the week that was and celebrate the weekend that is on these Sydney dance floors.

The old nine-to-five routine can be a bit of a grind — between work, study, trying to stay on top of all the shows on Netflix, it certainly takes a toll. That's why, when the weekend comes around, sometimes the only solution is to shake it off, a la Swifty, and leave your troubles behind while you dominate the dance floor.

In some good news for Sydneysiders that like to keep boogying till the wee hours, the NSW Government has announced it'll be scrapping lockout laws in the CBD before the end of the year. So, come summer, you'll be able to dance for even longer.

In the meantime, we've put together a list of some top pubs, bars and nightclubs in Sydney to head to for a boogie when the weekend hits. Because, let's face it, dancing is good for the soul. So limber up, people — it's time to boogie.

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    Located inside a historic 1878 cash reserve, Prince of York is split into three distinct areas: the ground floor and mezzanine area, the downstairs cellar and Pamela’s, a nightclub in the basement. So, once you’ve had dinner upstairs, head on down to the latter for a boogie.

    Dancing on tables is encouraged here. On Fridays, you’ll be boogying to disco at the regular Bola de Disco night — inspired by the notorious Pare de Sufrir bar in Guadalajara, Mexico — and on Saturdays, shuffling to post-punk and new wave with Love Tempo.

    While you’re dancing to these tunes atop the sturdy terrazzo tables, you can sip tapped margaritas or the Happy Pammy cocktail — with tequila, tangerine and bubbles — served with ‘cosmic dust’ on an LED coaster. If you’re looking to make a night of it, you could, instead, order one of the giant punchbowls (which will serve a group of four to eight), made with whole bottles of tequila, pét-nat and seasonal fruit.

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    An inclusive, LGBTQI-spirited space with three layers of flamboyant fun, the Imperial Hotel is back and brighter than ever. This triple threat is offering nightly drag shows, a veggie-focused menu, signature cocktails in honour of iconic queens and chances to sashay the night away. Head up to the Imperial’s rooftop bar with a plenty of art pop deco, Andy Warhol-esque, Italian fare and cocktails.

    If you’re looking for more of the club vibe, the bottom floor of the Imperial is a space of creativity and acceptance. With DJ sets on the weekend and a bevy of colourful performances, there’s never a dull moment down in the Basement.

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    Bring in the weekend the right way by claiming a spot at the Beachy for a few beers with the bronzed and the thonged. Once the sun has set, swap your flip-flops for something more sturdy, and head upstairs to the bandroom, where the party goes long into the night with live music and DJ sets. You can dance with your crew across the whole weekend — there are regular Sunday sessions, too. Best of all, entry is free. So, if you’ve spent most of your money by the time Friday night rolls around, don’t worry about dollars — just focus on your moves.

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    Stonewall is a place where time ceases to exist. As soon as you step off Oxford Street and into its arms, you’re in another dimension. There’s always a party to be found here — even the lockout laws haven’t dampened the Stonewall’s spirits too much. There’s no better place to forget about the week that was and celebrate the weekend that is. Get warmed up with live drag performances Friday and Saturday nights, then hit the d-floor and bust a move — if you’ve got the stamina. On Sundays, the frivolity rolls on with DJs on deck right through till close.

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    Universal Sydney

    There was a big, fat question mark hanging over the future of The Midnight Shift after its closure in 2017, but the beloved gay bar has been bought back to life. It’s now hosting late-night dance sessions every Friday and Saturday night. Running till 4am, the parties change weekly, with ones like FAB, featuring live performances, DJs and drag shows; Satori​, with a healthy dose of creativity in all forms; and a disco-, funk- and house-filled Midnight Discotheque making regular appearances.

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    Dance like everybody’s watching at Upstairs Beresford. This place is built for a crowd — and for a party. There’s regular live music and DJs hosted over the weekend, which brings a throng of beautiful people to the first-floor dancefloor at the Bourke Street pub. Keep the weekday blues at bay by heading to a Sunday session, somewhat of an institution for revellers wanting a boogie. We recommend starting out in the courtyard for a sunset bev before heading upstairs to dance the night away.

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    With its regular live music, spacious dance floor and 4am licence, Freda’s has lots of things going for it as a boogie destination. Having been opened for nine years, it’s a well-known destination, too. So, expect the dance floor to be heaving in the wee hours. Also expect there to be a shirtless reveller or two making shapes.

    To keep your thirst quenched throughout all the boogying, you’ll find local craft brews on tap and in the can and lots of natural wines available by the glass. And to eat, you can get takeaway pizza, philly cheesesteaks and loaded fries from Manny’s Pizza across the road.

    Image: Kitti Gould

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    Pass by kitsch neon graphics and down the darkened stairwell to reach what is The Cliff Dive — a hub of beats, beards and novelty-sized tiki mugs. Conceived by Jeremy Blackmore and Alex Dowd (of Tio’s fame), the vibe in here is electric. DJs are scheduled regularly, playing everything from hip hop and R&B to all-night Beyoncé sets and 90s tunes.

    Cocktails are affordable and refreshing — just what you need for a long boogie sesh — with options like the Watermelon Crush, pina colada and mojito (all $14). The only danger in this dive is how much fun you’re going to have. And perhaps the size of your hangover the next day.

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    Two years ago, The Lansdowne was resurrected by Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham (Mary’s Newtown and The Unicorn Hotel). The grungy feel of the space was kept in tact, with the old concrete floors and paint-peeling walls still peeping through. But the downstairs area is now home to a shiny new pool table and dart board, while the pokies room has been swapped for rock ‘n’ roll pinball machines, complete with a disco ball. Those sticky green lounges have been replaced by high and low tables, a light-up dance floor and a DJ booth — perfect for weekend boogies.

    It’s a massive space — a labyrinth of rooms that all lead up and out to a two-floor smoking courtyard with plush teal lounges and multi-colour floor lighting. Live music is the hero here, and the entire top floor is dedicated to getting some of the best bands in the business. If you need some fuel to keep the dancing going, you’ll find it in the form of Mary’s pizza — which is being served from a kitchen right next to the downstairs dance floor.

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    It would be remiss to talk about live music and dancing without mentioning the Oxford Art Factory. This 12-year-old Darlinghurst venue gets all of the popular gigs on, Aussie and international, from the small guys to big names and all the genres in between. And it has a sprawling dance floor where you can dance to all of them.

    Next door to the main room, is the Gallery Bar, where you’ll find more free live music, DJs and even art shows — and dancing is definitely encouraged here, too. You can even pick up a memento of your night our from the photo booth at the back (if you’re lucky enough to get it working).

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    On the edge of the rapidly gentrifying Central Park area, lies the Lord Gladstone. Now in the hands of the OG crew (Benny Johnson and Mitchell Crum), the pub has had a makeover of sorts. While its retained its old-school feel and general laidback vibe, the boys have amped up the entertainment, with more live gigs and parties.

    For us, this, excitingly, means more opportunities to dance. You can dane in the graffiti-strewn courtyard, in the main room up the front or even upstairs in one of the smaller gig and art rooms. To help you dance across the rooms, you’ll find a lineup of local craft brews and espresso martinis on tap.

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    Marrickville Bowling & Recreation Club

    Marrickville Bowlo combines bowling with live music — and is a bona fide inner west institution. During the day, it’s all about barefoot bowls, where you can have a few games for $15 per person. But it’s after dark that the real party starts. Gigs are held most Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, with artists and bands going from local rock to blues and soul to DJs that get the whole venue having a boogie.

    Should your sweet victory (or close losses) make you hungry, pop into the bowlo’s bistro for a feed.  The menu includes hearty pub classics like burgers, nachos, steaks and potato wedges. The kitchen stays open until 8.30pm, so you can grab a snack before a gig, too.

    Image: Kate Murphy


Top image: Stonewall by Katje Ford.

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