Mark Morri: Strip clubs are out, al fresco dining is in and new crowds are heading to a cleaner, friendlier version of the once-notorious Kings Cross.
Kings Cross is shedding its image as a sleazy red light district and fast becoming a sophisticated restaurant and bar precinct.
Strip clubs are being replaced with trendy, underground bars while up-market alfresco restaurants are taking the place of tired old cafes.
It comes after out of control violence, nightly assaults and the deaths of the young men Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie resulted in the statewide lock out laws.
“Now we have one of the lowest crime rates in the region,’’ Kings Cross Commander Superintendent Paul Carrett said.
“The largest number of complaints we get are about Uber delivery drivers being on the footpath, not drug dealing or being robbed or assaulted.
“We still have a very transient population, especially during the day, with the injecting room and the Wayside Chapel presenting areas of policing which we have to address. And there are still criminals here but they are more likely to live here than do business here and the sex industry is almost exclusively online so no street walkers.
“The big clubs have gone and on the whole people coming here seem a bit more mature than the crowds we have had in the past.”
Several businesses have told The Daily Telegraph foot traffic was increasing with a number reporting increased numbers from even the pre-pandemic days.
“Things are picking up in a positive way,’’ said Barry MacDonald, owner of Cafe Giorgio next to the famous El Alamein fountain.
“On a Saturday night you even see people queuing to get into the bars … something the Cross hasn’t seen since before the lockout laws.
“The whole vibe is totally different. It’s getting more sophisticated by the day and that’s reflected in the property prices, the types of business like boutique clothes and even antique shops.”
Where there was once 30 strip clubs and as many sex shops now there are only three — Bada Bing, the Dollhouse and Showgirls.
Mr MacDonald and other business owners support a move to have the notorious Golden Mile — from the Fountain to the Coke sign — turned into a boulevard, including moving the injecting room.
Kings Cross Liquor Accord head Doug Grand said they were in discussions with Sydney City Council about the possibility of having a “pop up’’ boulevard on Friday and Saturday nights.
The plan would include temporary bollards closing the street to traffic.
“I have been here from the 80s and it is now a totally different place and things have to be done to reflect that.
“The injecting room is now out of place and really needs to be relocated,’’ he said echoing comments from many local business and residents.
“It has served its purpose but the Cross is changing and it deserves a break (after) getting the blame for the lockout laws.”
“Life is slowly returning to the Cross as there are new little bars, restaurants and cafes opening up,” Ms Brett said.
1933 Boozehouse Bar owners Mark Lovett, Charlotte Brett and bartender Lyla Wessels are seeing an increase in night-life in the Kings Cross area. Picture: Christian Gilles
“I think this change is enticing to people once they visit the area more,”
“Our bar is very chilled and you can always stop in for a beer on your way home, the foot traffic has definitely picked up, but COVID was very hard when it happened.”
The City of Sydney said it’s funding the Committee for Sydney to engage with the local community to create a precinct vision for Kings Cross to make the area safer and more attractive to a diversity of visitors and breathe life back into the Cross
“Kings Cross has a rich and colourful history, and in the wake of lockouts and COVID-19 it will be time to start a new chapter,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.
“We want a safe and lively Kings Cross, with a thriving residential community and a diverse economy that includes fabulous bars and restaurants, theatres and shops,’’ she added.
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