You won’t meet many night owls in Sydney who are happy about the relatively new draconian lockout laws, which prevent anybody from entering (or returning to) its best clubs and bars after 1:30 a.m. They’ve put a dent in the city’s nightlife business, angered its best-behaved partiers, and sent many of us outside of the zone that encompasses the city center, the historically vibrant Kings Cross area, and popular nightlife destinations like Surry Hills and Oxford Street. That said, the city’s not exactly staying inside, especially on the weekends, when these five venues are packed with crowds looking to drink and dance and do everything their mothers probably told them not to. I’ve curated a good mix of super-clubs, a small underground den that is constantly pulsing (and serves a good selection of finger foods to soak up the booze), an American-style saloon that proffers bottomless bowls of peanuts, and one landmark pub with something different happening on each of its five floors.
Marquee was something of a game-changer when it first arrived in Sydney. The latest outpost of the globally popular dance club is located deep inside the flashy Star casino, and it’s no less impressive: a fantastic sound system, sunken dance floor, and an LED DJ booth up the cool factor.
With multiple levels, this showy venue in the middle of Sydney’s central business district caters to a pretty young crowd. The pool club located on the top level is a great place for the exhibitionists; the atrium draws busy crowds for parties like the quarterly I Remember House bash; and the Sydney outpost of globally famous nightclub Pacha is located here, too. Warning: things can get rowdy, so this one’s best left to the seasoned.
Kings Cross Hotel
This behemoth located directly opposite Kings Cross’s iconic Coca-Cola sign has something for everyone: a basement dive bar with pool table; a traditional first-level pub; balcony and rooftop seating for people-watching; the library-like “Red Room”; and FBi Social, a special space run by the folks at FBi Radio that pulls in musicians and well-known DJs on a regular basis.
Goodgod Small Club
Entering Goodgod feels a bit like stepping into Fred Flintstone’s favorite nightclub—if it were designed by David Lynch. It’s a dark, cavernous space lit by a display of rainbow-colored light bulbs. Grab a booth with friends and try some food from the brand new Caribbean-influenced menu, or head to the back room for a concert or a dance party. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure kind of place, and it’s always buzzing with laidback party monsters looking for a good time.
Shady Pines Saloon
One of the city’s most popular small bars, Shady Pines is located on a laneway just behind the busy Oxford Street strip. It’s a dim, dusty little room meant to ape the bars of the old American West, with lots of taxidermy, cowhide rugs, Merle Haggard on the stereo, and bowls of free peanuts for you to nosh while you’re drinking your bourbon.