Walking past 77 William Street in Darlinghurst early on a Sunday morning pre-lockout laws, and you might have seen bleary-eyed punters stumbling into the daylight from an unmarked door next to a convenience store. There’s a good chance they’d been partying all night at Club 77, a basement nightclub known (and loved) for its grime, its high-octane rotation of top DJs and promoters, and its lax approach to toilets that flushed.
Sydney’s nightlife scene has had a rocky time of it since then. But 77 has remained, switching gears as the times required – in 2016 it was resurrected by Jaime Wirth (who has reinvigorated then sold pubs including The Oxford Tavern and The Norfolk, and was also a regular behind the decks as part of Bang Gang DJs), and a year later started hosting parties that kicked off at 5am and ran till midday. Now, it’s changing things up again: it’s had a refurb inspired by the dive bars of New York City.
“During Covid we sat down and looked at our business model and worked out that if we just kept operating as a nightclub, we were always going to be the first to get shut down and the last to open,” Club 77’s director Dane Gorrel tells Broadsheet.
The refreshed Club 77 aims to attract a broad church of punters. Monday to Friday it opens at 5pm and remains open till 4am – drawing in office workers for after-work drinks, then those looking for a party. And while before you may have lined up for vodka Red Bulls and cheap wines – drinks that can be prepped at speed – it’s now catering to Sydneysiders’ love of quality booze with a drinks list put together by Odd Culture group beverage manager Jordan Blackman. There’s a short and solid menu of natural wines, craft beers by Young Henrys and Grifter, and bottled cocktails from Big Mood. Don’t drink? It’s catering to the alcohol-free crowd with a slate of options, including Heaps Normal beer and Big Mood’s No-Groni.
“We went down the [Big Mood] route because it’s pre-batched, pre-bottled, it’s all been scientifically worked out and the consistency is there. But the speed from our end is there, so we can just pour the cocktail, shake it, garnish it and off it goes,” says Gorrel.
From Monday to Friday it’s luring punters in after work with a two-hour happy hour, running from 5pm to 7pm, with $5 house beers, wine, spirits and seltzers, and $10 cocktails. But it’s also doing a second happy hour from 2.30am to 3.30am, to give hospo workers and night owls the same deal as earlier visitors.
“After they finish work, they can come in and get a cheap drink and then something to eat, then hang out in the venue till close,” says Gorrel.
Eating in 77 in its dank heyday would have seemed folly. Now it’s a more attractive proposition – it’s enlisted Antoine Nebula from Surry Hills’s Suzie Q to create a single menu item: a hotdog (there’s a vegan version, too).
Despite the skin-contact vino and craft brews, Club 77 remains determined to stick to its dance-party roots. Its program is stacked with resident and guest DJs from Australia and abroad, including 77 staples like House of Mince and Phil Smart, and newer promoters such as Tmrw Music, Undr Ctrl and Niche Productions. They’ll be playing long – up to five hour – sets. There are three new stages, an updated DJ booth and an impressive sound system by Translate Sound – and to nip any noise complaints in the bud it’s been soundproofed.
And while lockout laws, then lockdowns, have slowed Sydney’s nightlife down for the past eight years, Gorrel says this is a great time to reimagine what we want Sydney’s late-night cultural scene to look like.
“We’re trying to build up from scratch, definitely,” he says. “It comes down to … what type of music is getting played at what time of night, the mood in the venue, the production, everything. We want to provide a platform to educate people about how to go out all night – you don’t have to get wasted, you can just come out and have fun, and stay out all night. I think we’re in a lucky position, in Sydney more than anywhere – we’ve got the chance to rebuild [nightlife] now. There’s a lot of support behind rebuilding this culture, especially the late-night culture.”
77 William Street, Darlinghurst
Mon to Fri 5pm–4am