In what could be yet another victim of Sydney’s hopefully soon-to-be-shafted lockout laws, inner-west institution Sly Fox – which has sat on an Enmore Road corner for the better part of a century – may be forced to close. In a long and detailed Facebook post, the pub’s owners outline the hoops they’ve had to jump through to try and stay open.
The crux of it is that in 2016, when the lockout laws were introduced, NSW police realised Sly Fox’s development consent – issued to its previous owners in 1998 – didn’t allow the nightclub to play amplified music after 3am.
To get around this, for three years – yep, 36 months – the venue had patrons wear headphones from 3am to 6am while it slowly invested more than $100,000 in soundproofing the venue.
More recently, Sly Fox submitted a new development application to Inner West Council to get rid of the headphones and bring back a proper music scene after 3am. Sly Fox submitted the DA with what its owners say was the help and support of the council, which encouraged them to re-apply for the 24-hour development consent.
Council received 12 objections from concerned citizens and, after calling a special panel, decided to recommend a midnight licence. Sly Fox says it will be forced to close down if it’s unable to trade past midnight and has asked patrons to help prevent this by filling in a submission to council form. So far, it’s received more than 1300 submissions of support – 100 times the number of objections. An associated petition has garnered more than 5000 signatures.
“We’ve seen this story so many times, where longstanding cultural institutions come up against bureaucratic hurdles, driven largely by unreasonable noise complaints,” Inner West mayor Darcy Byrne tells Broadsheet. “They end up going broke from the legal process – having to spend so much on noise mitigation and legal fees. At a time when lockout laws are being repealed, we need to do the opposite and [develop] policy solutions to encourage live music.”
Sly Fox co-owner Kerry Wallace tells Broadsheet the venue has reached out to the local residents who lodged applications against the DA “numerous times, and they refuse to contact us or work with us.
“We put out 50 letters to all our neighbours stating that if anyone had problems with any noise emitted from the hotel could they please contact us so we could do noise testing within their premises, as [we] wanted good relationships with our neighbours, and we also wanted to make sure we were compliant legally.”
Now a special panel will decide whether the Sly Fox can continue under a 24-hour licence. It must take into consideration the 1000-plus submissions received in the last couple of days – a “truly unprecedented” number, says Byrne.
“I hope and expect that such overwhelming support will have an impact on the recommendation,” says Byrne. “It’s a problem with politics – generally politicians are older. My experience with local government has been that young people are ignored. We’ve seen that with the lockout laws. I’ve made a decision as mayor that the situation is so dire that I’m going to work with venues across the inner west. I’m going to be on their side working with them. Whoever is determining these DAs needs to acknowledge how strong the community sentiment is.”
If the venue isn’t given its 24-hour licence back, Wallace says it will close straight away.
“The business has been bleeding money ever since the silent-disco headphones came into play,” says Wallace. “A midnight licence will see the death of Sly Fox, I’m afraid.
“What’s sad is that council knows this; they know very well that without us being able to trade late into the morning – like Slyfox has done with no problems for 21 years – the business model is crushed, and it will be another addition to the list of Sydney venues that have closed.”
The council hasn’t established when the panel will meet.