After shutting in September last year for a $6 million renovation, Erskineville’s Imperial Hotel is making a comeback.
“It’s with absolute pleasure and insatiable delight that we officially announce the reopening of your beloved iconic jewel – The Imperial Hotel Erskineville,” read a statement on the venue’s Facebook page last week.
Under its previous owners, drug busts, drunken misdemeanours, licence breaches, and even reports of patrons licking alcohol off the floor forced its closure in 2015, leaving behind a social void. The “grand old dame”, as it was affectionately called, was also synonymous with drag and cabaret performances, and played an important role for Sydney’s LGBTQI community.
“We’re just making sure we don’t get it wrong,” Short tells Broadsheet. “We’ve got the right frame of mind. It’s all about creating a safe space, from security to staff. We understand we need to behave – there are rules.”
To begin with, Short admits that initially he wasn’t mindful of how important the pub is to the LQBTQI community.
“We spent a year consulting with the community, the local council … really digging around,” he says. “The thing we didn’t see is how big of an icon this hotel is to the LGBTI community.”
To rectify this the hotel is re-launching on Mardi Gras weekend with a host of LQBTQI-focused events and performances before opening to the public on Monday March 5. The Imperial’s new look will also be rolled out (taken care of by design firm Alex and Co).
A massive LED screen will show graphics during drag performances by Xtravaganza and the ladies from Broken Heel Festival.
On Mardi Gras eve, the All Sorts Blackout Party (hosted by drag queens Miss Ellaneous and Marzi Panne) will host a selection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performers before the annual Hung AF recovery party will kick off from 4pm sharp on Sunday.
A restaurant (with an 85 per cent vegetarian and 10 per cent pescatarian menu and a ceviche bar) will be part of Monday’s big reveal. It’s named Priscilla: Queen of the Desert after the iconic Aussie film the hotel makes an appearance in.