“I think it’s definitely something to celebrate, and I hope that people are keen to get behind it,” says Dowd of the festivities circling the city this weekend. “We think it’s going to mark a bit of a change.
“Sydney’s had a hard reset. There’s been a bit of a cultural change and some infrastructure changes. Even something like Uber, to get people out of areas quickly, has changed the landscape of the city. I think we’re primed for a bit of a renewal.”
Down on the other side of Oxford Street, Harpoon Harry will be hosting a multi-level house party alongside Keep Sydney Open, the grassroots movement-turned-political party that made fighting the lockouts’ detrimental effect on Sydney’s clubs its cause.
The night will feature New York house DJ Tim Sweeney alongside the UK’s Raw Silk and Sydney veteran Simon Caldwell alongside others, with 10 per cent of takings being donated to bushfire relief. “Enter anytime, all the way through till 3am,” the party’s Facebook notice proudly reads.
Licensee Andrew Condon says he’s confident punters will turn out to celebrate the occasion, but suspects the renewal of Sydney’s nightlife will be a gradual process.
“Listen, the lockouts were lifted on Tuesday. We didn’t expect 300 people to come in at 1.30am, you know?” he says.
“People are creatures of habit. I reckon it’s gonna be a matter of years, not months, to re-educate people and get them coming back out at night like they used to do. Just think, if you’re 18 to 23, you’ve never experienced anything other than the lockouts. It’s nuts, man.”
For Condon and his partners, who themselves only took over at Harry’s once the lockouts were already in effect, the laws’ lifting offers new possibilities: the potential to plan food deals and entertainment all the way to 3am, mixed drinks after midnights, the simple luxury of open doors.
“It’s almost a new lease on life, really. That’s why we’re celebrating,” he says. “We want to highlight how good the lifting of the lockouts is. It’s a massive thing for Sydney. It’s finally like the pin in the U-turn.”
Dowd, who fondly recalls his own “Spectrum-Vegas-Gaslight” movements of his younger days – a late-night triptych a generation of indie-inclined Sydneysiders might remember – says the lifting of the lockouts is exciting for youthful partiers.
“There’s definitely a lack of choice for young people now because a lot of venues closed, but Oxford Street can never be [anything] but an entertainment precinct; it’s been the epicentre of late-night entertainment from the ’70s. I think it’s an exciting time to be somebody emerging into that scene now. The Cross has changed a lot but I think we’re going to see a big renewal. We take that responsibility seriously and we want to be part of that safe-and-fun fabric of places to go.
“If you think about Sydney around the time of the Olympics in 2000, there was that real energy people had to say, ‘Hey, this is our city and we’re proud of it,'” he adds. “Now we’ve finally had a bit of a win and we’ve got a bit more freedom, so hopefully everybody’s pumped.”
Robert Moran is a culture reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age