Jaime Doom and Mike Delany On Resurrecting Sydney's Legendary 77
"It’s a great time to be opening a late night venue in Sydney."
February 17, 2016
Flinders. Hugo's. The Imperial. Q Bar. The Lansdowne. Spice. And, perhaps most devastating of all: Bar Century. These are the names of once-great venues forced to close — and they ring out through dark abandoned inner-city streets, sounding the death knell of Sydney’s late-night culture. The Baird government has extended its ban on awarding new liquor licences in the city, dragging its stranglehold on Sydney’s nightlife into its third miserable year. But as lockout laws continue to decimate the nightclub industry, somehow, against the seemingly unstoppable tide of forced closures and the steady decay of our city's nighttime economy, one bar has risen, phoenix-like from the ashes of its contemporaries: 77.
Better known to 2000s club rats as Club 77 — the erstwhile home of infamous club nights Starfuckers, Trashbags and Hellfire — the Darlinghurst nightclub is being resurrected by the team that revamped The Oxford Tavern, The Norfolk, and, until its fiery demise, The Abercrombie. Having set their sights on transforming one of Sydney’s most notorious and most loved venues, business partners Mike Delany and Jaime Wirth (aka Jaime Doom of Gang Bang DJs) sat down with Concrete Playground to discuss their latest venture.
77'S NEW FIT-OUT
Having made their name in turning rundown inner-city pubs into trendy gastro venues, 77 — they’ve dropped the ‘Club’ — marks a departure from their tried and true business model. "It’s not a pub and, being a venue with such a club history, that side of it needs to be acknowledged," says Wirth. "It is basically going to be a bar that ends up with people dancing in it."
In contrast to their previous watering holes, which were distinctly influenced by American dive bars, 77 will instead turn to the Eastern Bloc for culinary and design inspiration. "We are steering away from the Americana feel of some of our previous venues and heading into an imaginary eastern European 1973 territory for 77," he says. This is played out in the design of the room and the food, as well as the drinks list. The cocktails will feature a lot of European spirits, Delany tells us, from absinthe to Kirsch to Becherovka (a Czech herbal bitters) to Slivovice, a plum brandy. On the other hand, the wine list has been curated by Chiara Previati from Cafe Nice and will focus on European wines at very reasonable prices.
77'S NEW MENU
If, after one too many wines, you start to feel peckish, don’t be demoralised at the recent moratorium on post-midnight kebab sales, as 77 will offer food into the wee hours. "The food is drinking food, shareable and heavy on the cheeses," says Wirth.
"Our signature dish will be the baked to order pretzel served with hot parmesan and artichoke fondue.” We've personally never heard of a better combo than pretzels and hot cheese, however lactose intolerants need not to despair (and James Bond wannabes can rejoice as well) as no self-respecting Soviet-inspired bar would be complete without caviar. Obviously.
77 & THE LOCKOUTS
While the menu sounds well thought out and innovative — and their track record is undeniably successful — 77’s proximity to what the NSW Government has designated the ‘Kings Cross Precinct’ would surely give even the most audacious entrepreneur pause for thought. Well, not Wirth and Delany who, despite the multitude of evidence to the contrary, insist "it’s a great time to be opening a late night venue in Sydney". Their enthusiasm seems genuine, and with 77, they plan to counteract the impact of the lockout laws by acknowledging them.
By meeting the lockouts head-on, the "unfortunate climate" the hospitality industry finds itself in in Sydney 2016, the pair plan to “drag the venue into adulthood”. And rather than honour the legacy of the venue and attempt to recreate the dark, dank nightclub of yore, they're aiming to make a new classic. Inspired by the now-defunct Kings Cross lounge Barons, the bar will be a place where people of all kinds could hang out together, Delany says. While this reimagining of Club 77 could be seen as tacit approval of Sydney’s new, more restrained (and arguably more mundane) nightlife culture, Delany says they are intent on showing that staying up late is not a crime. "We are aiming to show that late night fun is totally normal.”
Rather than focusing on the restrictions that have beset Sydney’s late-night economy, they are trying to expand on the venue's positives and overcoming any shortcomings. "In the end, we are always trying to create a venue that we would like and one that feels good,” says Wirth. And what kind of venue would they like? Well, Wirth only needs three words and a penchant for sibilance to answer: “sinister, simple, sexy.” Delany expands on this, explaining that “everyone knows the history of the place and it will still be wild — but adult wild." Does this mean we can expect Starfuckers to return to its rightful home? “Not a chance.”
77 is set to re-open February 18. So, do they feel confident that despite the manifold challenges they face that the launch of the venue will be a success? “Who knows? Maybe we’ll be closed by Friday.”
Find 77 at 77 William Street from Feb 18. Long live 77.
Images: Andy Fraser.
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