Nightlife in Australia
By Diana Plater
Melbourne better than Sydney
THE Sydney-Melbourne rivalry has been going on since colonial days. These days in terms of nightlife at least there's little doubt the Victorian capital wins.
Much of this has to do with the state's licensing laws - Victoria's are 21st century while NSW still thinks the Rum Corps runs the place.
Bar and restaurant owners like Toby Osmond would agree.
"For quality entertainment after dark Sydney comes a bad second," says the website of he and his brother's new venue, Will and Toby's Taylor Square.
But that could all change if Sydney's Lord Mayor Clover Moore and many others lobbying the Government have their way.
Moore thinks Sydneysiders are short-changed by the licensing laws, which are blamed for the city lacking the charming small bars that line many Melbourne laneways.
In Melbourne, a cafe can get a liquor licence for $567.50 so it can sell you a glass of wine without food.
In Sydney the same licence costs $10,500 for a restaurant of 100 or less, with 70 per cent of people having to order meals with their drinks.
The fee is $15,500 for more than 100. The ratio is 70 per cent eating to 30 per cent only drinking.
Ms Moore plans to introduce a Private Member's Bill into State Parliament to reform the liquor laws.
Many organisations are also lobbying on the issue, although change is resisted by the Australian Hotels Association.
Still, despite the obstacles, around half a dozen new bars are set to open in Sydney in coming months.
Supper clubs are the new buzz word for Sydney nightlife.
Some say Sydney sophisticates and visitors want to eat late when they go out on the town and more and more venues are now catering for that.
Sommelier Nick Hildebrandt of the Bentley Restaurant and Bar in Surry Hills says he's not sure there's a market yet for locals eating late.
His restaurant's kitchen stays open until 11pm but most people like to eat around 7.30 to 8pm.
"There isn't the culture . . . but it will hopefully change," he says.
Only 25 people can drink without eating at the Bentley.
"Sydneysiders like to think they are sophisticated but the licensing laws don't help," he says.
That's not to say Sydney doesn't have its late-night venues.
For example, try Baron's in Roslyn St at Kings Cross.
Then walk down the hill to a very handy hotel, Vibe Rushcutters. Beats trying to find a taxi at 2am.
* Diana Plater is from Melbourne