breast forms

What’s Happening With the Imperial?

| Nov 16, 2009
Spread the love

Imagine that for as long as you can remember you had your heart set on visiting one of the so-called ‘˜Wonders of the World.’ Perhaps it was the Great Pyramids of Egypt, Machu Pichu, the Great Wall of China or Taj Mahal. (It doesn’t matter there are lots more than the traditional ‘˜seven wonders of the world’).

Imagine that for a number of years you had looked forward to the chance to visit your favorite wonder and finally it was going to happen. However when you finally arrive there it is: gone!

More simply, imagine you are one of the Griswold family in the classic National Lampoon’s Family Vacation. You have endured numerous adventures and hazards traveling across America to visit ‘˜Wally World.’ When you arrive you find you can get a great spot in the parking lot because Wally World is closed for renovations and will be for the length of your vacation.

How would you feel? Deflated? Disappointed? A bit angry with yourself for not doing a bit more research? A lot poorer and somewhat wiser?

Well, that’s how I felt after a long-anticipated visit to one of my ‘˜Seven Wonders of the Drag World’ came to naught.

I’m referring to the Imperial Hotel in Sydney, Australia. In Australia a hotel is not always a hotel. It can be a corner pub and restaurant, a place of entertainment or both. Such was the Imperial. What made the Imperial Special? It was a gay venue for sure. It also was famous for years of top notch drag/ female impersonator entertainment. It came to my attention when I saw the hotel featured in the opening scenes of that great Australian movie Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. It looked like a fun place to be. As I read more about it I learned of its fabulous shows, its fun atmosphere with a 24 hour license and how it was a meeting place for ‘˜trannies’ and admirers both local and tourist.  The Imperial was definitely my kind of place. The Impy, as the locals called it, was the Queen Mary, Edelweiss and Backstreet rolled in to one!

Unfortunately by the time I got to Sydney the Impy shared another trait with those three American classics: it was closed!

What happened to the Imperial is probably similar to what happens to a lot of gay/ drag bars in a world of urban gentrification. (Gentrification: the act of upper class people moving in to an old neighborhood and trying to re-make it in their dull, quiet suburban image.)  Changing building codes combine with influential neighborhood pressure to get the bar closed. In the case of the Imperial in 2008 the owner closed the bar down to do some renovations to spruce up the interior and to enlarge the stage area. He apparently wanted to better accommodate the very large crowds (close to 1,000) that flocked to the hotel on weekends.

As he got ready to re-open Shadd Danesi, the owner, found he had some problems. The local gentry had found they liked the quiet that came with a closed Imperial. The local electricity board said he needed to do about $100,000 in improvements to the local substation. Citing potential disturbance to the neighborhood the Sydney Council limited the occupancy to 448 while Danesi said that according to code the entertainment and dance area could safely hold 788 with more in the front bar.

During the Imperial’s prolonged closure Danesi launched a public appeal and asked supporters to conduct a letter writing campaign to the Sydney mayor. He asked writers to make these points:

Why should people have to wait in the cold and rain to get into the Imperial Hotel when there is ample room inside a purposely-built environment, which is soundproofed?

More noise will be made on the street if up to 350 people are denied access to the Imperial when the people could be inside.

Why should the gay and lesbian community be subjected to the possibility of homophobic violence from passers by when there is a safe environment inside the hotel?

The hotel complies with all the safety requirements to accommodate up to an extra 350 people.

Surely it is in the interest of pedestrians and residents to get up to 350 people off the street late at night to avoid them having to cross the road.

The Imperial hotel is the only internationally renowned iconic gay/lesbian venue left in the city and the community needs the space and number to socialise in a safe environment.

Why should Council make us deny entry to the local community and international visitors when they themselves have described the Imperial as an “Iconic destination”

Good points but they didn’t seem to have much sway on Council. Danesi and The Imperial got nowhere with Council. He ended up appealing to the State’s Land and Environment Court.

A Facebook site was launched to support the Imperial. They argued, ‘œThe Imperial is a local institution ‘” a friendly local pub and one of Sydney’s most important gay and lesbian community venues. It has helped to raise over $1 million for charities including ACON and the Luncheon Club. Without the Imperial, these groups will be deprived of funds for essential services and campaigns.

Now a small group of local residents are trying to stop the Imperial Hotel from reopening.

The Imperial has operated as a pub for almost a century, and has had a 24 hour license for 25 years. Don’t let a handful of recent arrivals close it down!

Let City of Sydney Council know that we care about the Imperial and want it to reopen for business as usual.’

Famous drag entertainer Mitzi Macintosh also got involved, imploring her many fans to put pressure on Sydney City Council to approve the re-opening at the larger dimensions. That didn’t help get the Imperial open while I was in Sydney but the story does have a happy ending. A few days before I was to leave Australia an article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald saying the Land and Environment Court had ruled in favor of the Imperial ‘“ at least on a one year trial basis.

As part of the approved 12-month trial, the Court imposed Plan of Management which includes; progressive shutting down of bars to provide for staggered departures; discouraging large groups leaving at once; having security direct patrons to the taxi stand and bus pick-up point, with security guards at each of these points; and a reduction in queuing on the footpath and consequent reduction in potential noise impacts.

Will those conditions be easy to meet or is the court just giving the Imperial just ‘˜enough rope to hang itself’. Time will tell but in the meantime Danesi has announced that the Imperial will be ready to re-open in late November.

One battle that Danesi lost was that the Imperial will not be able to compromise its heritage look by placing the large pink high-heeled shoe from Priscilla fame on its roof.

Overall it is a long-awaited victory for Danesi and for the Sydney gay and drag communities. However, I’m thinking that if I want to see this wonder of the drag world I had better get myself back to Australia pretty soon. When the urban gentry are on the prowl few drag bars can be safe as former frequenters of the Queen Mary and Backstreet well know.

  • Yum

Spread the love

Category: Transgender Community News

Linda Jensen

About the Author ()

Canadian writer Linda Jensen is a long time contributor to TGForum. Before the days of the Internet Linda started her writing with the Transvestian newspaper. Her writing ranges from factual accounts of her adventures to fiction although frankly sometimes her real life adventures are stranger than the fiction. Linda is married to a loving partner who upon learning about Linda said, "she was part of you before I met you. Although I didn't know it she was part of the package I fell in love with. I don't want to mess up that package." "Does it get any better than that?" asks Linda.

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. virginia virginia says:

    Why are all these people so afraid of us? Do they not have other items to worry about in this world than a icon that helps the whole of the community.

breast forms

%d bloggers like this: