Last drinks for Bourbon at Kings Cross with eight storey apartment redevelopment plans

Last drinks for Bourbon at Kings Cross with eight storey apartment redevelopment plans
Last drinks for Bourbon at Kings Cross with eight storey apartment redevelopment plans

The infamous Bourbon nightclub in Kings Cross is set for demolition following a redevelopment proposal for a $47 million luxury eight storey apartment block.

It would be the end of an era for the standalone hotel that comes with more folklore than any other in Sydney since being opened in 1967 by Bernie Houghton.

The Bourbon premises, initially the haunt of US servicemen on R&R, then colourful underworld Sydney identities, more recently had a reputation for late night sporting star fistacuffs as it was among Sydney's first seven days 24-hour licenced premises.

It was in the late 1990s when cricketer Ricky Ponting, four years after his Test debut, was involved in a fight which left him with a black eye. Drag queen Carlotta happily gave her insights into the night to the inquiring news hounds.

"Everyone who drank there has a Bourbon & Beefsteak story," writer Paul Ham once suggested, adding Ponting's "sobering experience helped put the young cricketer back on the path to greatness."

Local novelist Louis Nowra wrote that between 1988 and 1996 the Kings Cross police were called to the venue no fewer than 550 times.

Last drinks for Bourbon at Kings Cross with eight storey apartment redevelopment plans

(Source Sydney City Council Archives)

But having spent $66 million on his substantial five building site amalgamation, developer Sam Arnaout isn't sentimental instead seeing himself as the king of the emerging residential rejuvenation of the Darlinghurst Road strip. 

The only nod to the past in the proposed plans was keeping the curved facade of the former 1965 Les Girls hotel, in accordance with Sydney City Council's determination of its supposed significance.

Arnaout's Iris Capital proposes 83 apartments and 101 car parking spaces, plus retail premises and two licensed bars. It is proposed the reincarnated Bourbon will have up to 400 patrons and the Empire some 920, as it the mixed use application seeks to navigate the twin outcomes of liquor outlets and quiet residential living.

Residents point out the nearby Rex, on the other side of the fountain, did not keep its barn style liquor outlet in its residential redevelopment by the O'Neil family.

Chris Corradi, the Sydney City Council area planning manager, gave Iris Capital pre-application advice on the proposal that seeks:















Arnaout now controls the expanded northern entry of the Cross, from the Fountain Cafe at Kingsley Hall on Barncleuth Square through to the Empire Hotel on the Roslyn Street corner, but he missed out on securing the Lido building which would have made the site rectangular. His site is 2500 sq m.

The proposal also sees the demolition of the adjoining former Sydney Swans Club.

Arnaout seeks to increase the site density. The current floor area is 5856 sqm. The application seeks an extra 1865 sqm, taking the density to 6936 sq m. 

There is currently some 656 sqm of retail floor area on the site and a further 5,200 sqm of pub floor area associated with the two licensed premises. The Bourbon is currently 4000 sq m space. It proposes the new liquor premises will have a combined 1,280 sqm space.


Last drinks for Bourbon at Kings Cross with eight storey apartment redevelopment plans

Residents are likely to strongly oppose the demolition of the heritage buildings dating back to 1896, but have only until January 24 to lodge submissions to the council.

The Greenland development group bookend the nightclub strip where the Crest redevelopment, Omnia is under construction with the Chinese developer having secured an $11 million penthouse sale, highlighting the potential of the rundown location.

Arnaout had owned that site too, but flicked it.

Arnaout bought the Bourbon for $24 million from publican Christopher Cheung who said the lockout laws had influenced his decision to sell the property.

The proposed apartment block has been a collaborative design by SJB Planning, Urbis Heritage and Woods Bagot Architects. 

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of Australia's most respected property journalists, having been at the top of the game since the early 1980s. Jonathan co-founded the property industry website Property Observer and has written for national and international publications.

Hotel Kings Cross

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