Sly Fox rallies to keep doors open

15 November, 2019 by Brydie Allen

One of Sydney’s treasured Inner West late night live music venues, the Sly Fox in Enmore, has this week called on the community to help campaign against council recommendations for a midnight trading license.

In a post on Facebook that has now been shared over 800 times, Sly Fox described their story and the battle with the Inner West Council, which they’ve said will force them to close the doors forever.

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According to the post, the Sly Fox was operating under a 24 hour Development Consent since 1998, with no problems to speak of. It wasn’t until 21 years later in 2016 that police realised the 24 hour license hadn’t been re-applied for. Until this time, the owners, council and police were unaware the Development Consent had lapsed.

When this realisation came to light, the Inner West Council wrote a letter to state the license would remain, given the venue’s long history of trade without issue.

It was also in 2016 when police realised that a noise term wasn’t being met on the Sly Fox’s DA, namely, that amplified music wasn’t allowed after 3am (obviously an issue for a 24 hour live music venue). To comply with that, Sly Fox introduced silent disco headphones.

From 2016 to 2019, the owners of Sly Fox are said to have spent over $100,000 on fully sound proofing the venue. They said: “after countless meetings with council DA planners, town planners, acoustic engineers, neighbours, lawyers, the Mayor of Inner West Darcy Byrne, the CEO of Inner West and others, Sly Fox submitted to council a DA to remove the headphones for good.”

However, council said the DA was no longer valid, retracting their 2016 letter that allowed the 24 hour license, while encouraging Sly Fox to re-apply for the consent. At the time, Sly Fox described the council as wanting them to make this application and saying “we will help you do this.”

When the new DA was submitted to council, 12 objections were received, but Sly Fox said: “some which we’ve since proved to be fraudulent with no one actually living at the address of the objector.”

The objections meant that the outcome of the DA had to be reviewed by a special panel to decide whether to recommend it for approval or denial. That outcome came this week.

“Yesterday [12 November] Sly Fox received a call from council stating they would be recommending a 12am midnight license!!!! Knowing very well that the outcome of this would be Sly Fox closing its doors forever…. We are devastated, but it’s not over just yet.”

Providing links to a council submission form and an online petition, Sly Fox wrote: “From the owners of Sly Fox, the staff, the DJs, the promoters, the bands, the comedians, the improv actors, the chefs, we call on you all to SAVE THE SLYFOX.”

The Night Time Industries Association said the Sly Fox example illustrates an all too common issue that is facing night time businesses across Sydney.

“It’s unfortunate that notwithstanding two public inquiries, thousands of submissions and countless recommendations to improve the viability of venues and performance spaces in NSW, an institution like the Sly Fox is facing the prospect of closing,” Association chair Michael Rodgrigues told TheShout.

“While the winds of change are blowing in the right direction with lockout lifting and other regulatory improvements around the corner, this example unfortunately demonstrates all too vividly the challenges our venues still face on a daily basis.”

Those winds of change are helped along by the people of Sydney, who continually demonstrate they are ready for change. It’s something that can be seen in the Sly Fox campaign too, already receiving an influx of support with hundreds of submissions placed to the Inner West Council in just two days by everyone from the general public to local politicians themselves.

Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne, which Sly Fox describes as “a gem against the rough,” is one of the supporters and has been helping the owners with the bureaucracy of the DA process.

“I joined Kerri and Brett, owners of the Sly Fox, to launch a campaign to save the venue. I’ve been working alongside them for months to overcome bureaucratic hurdles so that they can operate as a live music venue. Now it’s time to tell all the government agencies involved that we won’t let this community institution be shut down through over regulation and unreasonable restriction of hours,” Byrne wrote in a statement shared to Facebook.

“Mayors and Councillors are legally removed from development assessment and won’t vote on the venue’s DA. But as Mayor I am throwing my active support behind the Save the Sly Fox campaign.”

Greens MP for Newtown Jenny Leong said: “The treasured Enmore venue is a staple of nightlife culture for the Inner West community and has been operating as a late night venue for decades.”

“Allowing 12 objections to close a venue is outrageous and demonstrates a complete disregard for our nightlife culture.”

The potential closing of another night life institution is made all the more sobering by the fact that Sydney’s Joint Select Committee so recently recommended supporting live music and late night venues. Just last month, Bars&Clubs reported that live music could be the key that Sydney needs to revitalise its night time economy.

The Western Sydney Business Chamber also recently highlighted this, describing the state of live music venues as “perilous”.

Executive Director of the Chamber, David Borger, said: “I like Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence as much as the next person but that shouldn’t be the reality of our main streets and CBDs in the night time economy.”