POLL: Fanny’s nightclub to close

CLOSING TIME: Bonnie Semetka and Rianna Beentjes. Picture: Simone De Peak Fanny’s site hasthousand tales to tell

ICONIC Newcastle nightclub Fanny’s will literally rock out on New Year’s Eve, with its owner confirming yesterday he will close the colourful and controversial venue.

‘‘Fanny’s will always hold a special place in Newcastle history but the city we live in now is different and lifestyles change,’’ said owner Russell Richardson, who plans to give the heritage-listed building a facelift before relaunching the venue – probably with a new name – to appeal to a broader market of revellers.

‘‘We have watched as the foreshore has grown and developed outside our door, as Newcastle turned from coal town to vibrant cosmopolitan centre, and we are heavily investing in seeing Newcastle thrive and maintain that level of growth.’’

To celebrate the end of a heady era lasting almost three decades, Fanny’s will go out with three bangs: Sneaky Sound System plays at the venue tonight, the final raucous student night falls on Boxing Day and it will host a ‘‘last dance’’ extravaganza on New Year’s Eve.

News of Fanny’s closure – which comes one month after it topped the state government’s 2011-2012 most violent venues list with 28 incidents, and days after its licensee, Greg Mathew, was fined $500 over a licensing breach – will prompt a trip down memory lane for many locals.

Australian Hotels Association Newcastle president Rolly de With, who started his career at Fanny’s as a barman in 1984 and bought the business a decade later before selling it to Mr Richardson, said Fanny’s would be missed.

‘‘Times have changed but it’s gone through a number of changes to appeal to different people over the years,’’ said Mr de With, adding that the nightclub had both entertained and employed thousands of locals.

‘‘It does have a soft spot with Novocastrians – a lot of people started their relationships there and quite a few probably ended them there too.’’

Mr Richardson, who owns the King Street Hotel and is on the Newcastle Entertainment Precinct alliance that has helped curb night-time violence in the city, said the renovation would respect the 1860s-era heritage of the building.

Council is still assessing the application; however a Statement of Environmental Effects document states the facelift will address ‘‘current deficiencies’’ including a lack of internal smoking areas.

‘‘This causes management problems and issues in the public domain as patrons have to go into the street to smoke and [this] often leads to anti-social and violent behaviour,’’ according to the environmental document.

‘‘This proposal is a major step in redressing these issues and moving the nightclub into a different patron demography and with broader public appeal, without intensifying the operation.’’

The document also raises the ‘‘strong and real potential’’ for a cafe or ‘‘street cart’’ operation at the site on week days only.

‘‘While Fanny’s is a long-term iconic commercial resident of this area, its ongoing presence and response to local residents as an amenity and a successful economic venture is important in keeping the centre of Newcastle active and vibrant,’’ it says.

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