Australia’s iconic ARQ nightclub, a Sydney staple for more than 20 years, is officially for sale. The block it occupies also houses Bodyline gay sauna and several other small businesses.
The premises, occupying 10-24 Flinders Street and 4-10 Taylor Street, have been owned by Shadd Daniel Danesi for the past three decades. ARQ launched in 1999.
Industry experts estimate it will sell somewhere between AUS$45-$50million ($33-$37million).
It’s being marketed as an opportunity to develop a high-end mixed-use precinct. Buyers can acquire the site as a vacant possession or fully tenanted, which makes the future of ARQ and Bodyline uncertain. ARQ has not made any comment about the sale.
ARQ had to shut down for months because of the Covid pandemic. As recently as March, it vowed to return and urged people not to listen to rumors about closure. However, the sale appears to definitely now be going ahead. Many fear that the properties will very likely be bought by developers.
Sydney is currently reviewing building restrictions and is looking at allowing developers to build taller in this part of the city. That makes the plot ripe for redevelopment and the arrival of luxury apartments.
Related: Gay bars and clubs in Sydney
One of the agents involved with the sale, Harry George of CBRE, said, “The proposed changes to planning rules will allow for taller buildings along Oxford Street, in a bid to transform the tired strip into a massive cultural and creative precinct.
“ARQ represents an extremely rare opportunity for an incoming purchaser to secure a property within one of Sydney’s finest inner-city suburbs.”
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The news has been met with dismay from many online.
“City of Sydney leased off half of Oxford Street for redevelopment. Kicked out a lot of LGBTQI shops. And now Arq will become an additional building site. Just in time for world pride. Sydney will be a joke,” said Phil Alexander on Facebook beneath a story about the sale. Sydney is due to host World Pride in 2023.
Writer Matt Galea lamented the loss of “Trash Alley”, the club’s amyl-scented smoking alley where so much socializing would take place: “It’s heartbreaking to think that the next generation of queer folk won’t have such a place to visit during their formative years.”
Journalist Gary Nunn, for the Sydney Sentinel, said, “I want my gay village back: the one that included clubs like ARQ, which are far more than just nightclubs to the LGBTQI community. They’re sanctuaries; islands of diversity and acceptance in an otherwise beige and intolerant world.”
A petition has been launched to try and save the venue.
Around the world, LGBTQ venues have been facing a particularly difficult time, even before the Covid pandemic arrived. Rising rents and the gentrification of former gay neighborhoods have driven many to close.
Dating apps have resulted in fewer people going out to seek company, and some queer folk also say they find more mainstream venues just as welcoming.
For dozens of LGBTQ venues, the pandemic has proved a final nail in the coffin.