Under new management: Meet the new team at the Imperial Hotel
With new owners, a new entertainment line-up and a much needed spruce up, the Imperial Hotel is ready to claim your heart once more.
With a mantra of community, culture and diversity, the Imperial Hotel’s new management team promise to deliver a fresh line-up of entertainment that is sure to appeal to locals and the queer community, alike.
Recognising the special status the iconic venue has as the long-time home of many of our best drag performers, new owners Mike McGrath, Rebecca Alder and Murat Kilic have devised a plan to breathe life back into the old girl and give her some much-needed love.
Whilst curating their entertainment program, the trio have consulted with several of the queer community’s best-loved performers, including Matt Format and Jonny Seymour of Stereogamous and Club Kooky fame. The result is an eclectic line-up of fabulous entertainment that will blend old school drag alongside cutting edge cabaret and performance art as well as DJs and musicians.
Above: The Imperial Hotel's Mike McGrath, Rebecca Alder and Murat Kilic. Photo: Cec Bubsy. Top image: The Imperial Hotel's new operators, bar managers and staff. Photo: Cec Busby
McGrath, who is a long time Erskineville local and the man behind Redfern’s Black Penny told SX he is really looking forward to seeing the Imperial blossom again.
“I’m an Erko local I’ve been coming to the Imperial for twenty years, I have great memories of the place and this pub is an icon. So when everything fell into place for me to come on board I said ‘Yes! Yes Yes!’ he enthused.
McGrath says all three team members were conscious of the history of the Imperial: “How culturally important it is for the gay community and Sydney as a whole and in a time when a few iconic gay pubs have shut down or changed their focus – we didn’t want to do that,” he said.
It’s a sentiment shared by Alder and Kilic, life and business partners and the dynamic duo behind the hugely successful underground club, Spice Cellar.
Alder told us the deal has been almost two years in the making and something they haven’t taken on lightly.
“It’s a 25 year lease,” added Kilic, “I’ll be 67 with a walking frame when I get out,” he joked.
Alder said taking over the Imperial has involved enormous planning. “We were completely aware of our surroundings and the community and we want to make certain they know the whole story and what we are about – and what we’re going to do.”
What ‘they’re about’ can easily be seen in their new motto for the venue: community, diversity, culture, and it’s clear from chatting to the trio, this isn’t just lip service. They really want bring back life to Erskineville’s grand dame.
“It was obvious the place needed love,” said Kilic. “And I knew we were passionate about making it beautiful again and regenerating all the interest and restoring it to its glory and all its art deco fabulousness.”
“We love the arts community – from music to drag to underground clubbing to burlesque and performance artists,” Alder chimed in. “We love all of it and to be able to be in a space where we can bring it all together... Our approach is focused on reinvigoration and bringing together the old and the new, with a different twist.
Above: Artists and performers part of the Imperial's new entertainment line-up. Photo: John McRae
Staying true to the LGBTI heritage of the Imperial, the entertainment line-up, which kicked off with a bang last week, features local Imperial favourites as well as a new suite of established and emerging artists, including gender illusionists, DJs and musicians honouring the fine arts of drag, cabaret and performance art.
“All these guys are our mates – we reached out to Matt (Format) and Jonny (Seymour) when we first moved ahead and said how important it was for them to come on board, and Matt and Johnny have been working with us for months,” added Kilic.
“Some of the DJs we have been working with for years – and everyone is super excited and wants to be involved,” finished Alder.
Most of all the trio hope to build a venue where everyone is welcome, where community and diversity isn’t just a catchphrase and the punters from all walks are happy to rub shoulders.
“I guess the biggest compliment for me would be if any clientele came in and not only felt but realised we had created a mutual open-minded space where the queer community and straight community can come together and feel like they are a part of something. We want everyone to have fun together,” said Alder .
The Imperial Hotel is located at 35 Erskineville Road, Erskineville. Go to www.facebook.com/TheImperialHotelSydney
The Imperial Hotel’s new entertainment line-up draws upon the dynamic talents of established and emerging queer artists in Sydney.
“I’m looking forward to the queer community getting a place to perform and spread their message of love in all its different forms and iterations,” says Matt Format, curator of the Imperial’s Art window project and host of the venue’s new cabaret night. “It’s about bringing the whole community into a nice welcome, safe space. Interacting with each other – community, diversity, love.”
Format says his shows will blur the lines of gender expectations. “There is an illusion around that. There’s bit or storytelling, there’s a bit of fantasy and I celebrate love, life and excess. We’re all here together – why not just have fun.”
DJ Amanda Louise is over the moon to be a part of the Imperial’s new DJ line-up. Taking over the decks in the Imperial’s front bar every Friday night, the DJ says she’s looking forward to setting the groove. “It’s like two of my favourite things wrapped up into one – my gay community with my underground sounds.”
Having already put her first set to bed Amanda Louise is pumped to bring back a bit of booty shaking to the Imperial bar. “I did my first gig on Friday and was doing Disco in the front bar. I think I’ve kept the feel and essence of the music from the forint bar but given it a new spin. I’m looking to play a New York style classic disco that will let people get funky, have a chat or get up for a groove if they want to dance.”
Gaynor Tension and Doreen Manganini
Two of the Imperial Hotel’s best-loved drag acts, Gaynor Tension and Doreen Manganini will reunite on the Imperial’s stage this month. Expect duelling duets and constant comedy.
“What’s great about our act is we sing live,” says Gaynor. “And it’s very supper club. I do Barbara, Shirley, Liza – there’s a lot of wig changes and voice changes.”
“Whereas I think what the punters love from me is I’m so politically incorrect,” adds Doreen, who provides many of the comic moments in the duo’s act.
The pair insists every show will be totally different and the punters can expect an anything goes attitude. “I think it will be a fun and interesting night,” adds Doreen.
Felicity and Friends
Trivia returns with a bang at the new Imperial Hotel taking over the Imperial bar every Tuesday night. Felicity Frockaccino is the quiz mistress who will be dishing out the questions that will test even the most informed noodle. With plenty of anecdotes, quips and jokes, this is trivia unlike any other.
Felicity will also continue her weekly Friday night gathering at the Imperial Hotel. ‘Felicity and Friends’ will see a veritable drag buffet served up each week. Expect plenty of colour, camp and class.
House of Drag
April Fools says she is super excited to be part of the House of Drag crew at the Impy.
“It will be amazing,” she says. “We’re going to have such a great crowd here, some really great girls and we can’t wait to do some shows to entertain you.”
April says they will be introducing some new group numbers and plans are afoot for full scale productions. House of Drag will be taking centrestage in the cocktail lounge and April says the punters will definitely get more than they asked for. “We always push ourselves as entertainers, and we want to bring the best show we can – we constantly try to raise the bar.”
Paul Mac and Jonny Seymou,r better known together as DJ duo Stereogamus, will take over the Imperial every Sunday to deliver Strobe Light Unicorn. Mac told SX Strobe Light Unicorn is the kind of place he’d like to hang out at. “The doors are open: there’s cheap beers, people are getting together playing pool and then as the night wears on it gets a little more dance-floor-y. I’m super proud to be involved,” he said.
Mac told SX recently there was not much gayness going on in Newtown. “I think we’re providing a queer option for Sundays in Newtown with really beautiful music.”
He says the punters can also look forward to sets from Stereogamous as well as special guests (Ben Drayton dropped in last weekend) and says whilst playing his set he “couldn’t wipe the smile off his face”.
Photos by Cec Busby (unless otherwise stated)
IMPERIAL HOTEL: WHAT’S ON
Monday to Friday: HAPPY HOUR 5pm – 7pm
Monday to Sunday: LOCALS SPECIALS 7pm – 9pm
Tuesday: Trivia with Felicity Frockaccino Starts 7pm
Friday: Aaron Manhattan (DJ Set), DJ Grumble, Amanda Louise + more
Saturday: Kate Monroe, Matt Vaughan, Paris GrooveScooter, Buck Naked + more
Sunday: Stereogamous presents ‘Strobe Light Unicorns’ 2pm – 10pm
Wednesday: Matt Format & Guests ft DJ Dames Jean
Thursday: Dame Gaynor Tension & Doreen Manganini
Friday: Felicity & Friends
Saturday: House of Drag
9 May: Harbour City Bears
8 June: Vivid Spice
Friday – Saturday 10pm: www.thespicecellar.com.au
IMPERIAL ART WINDOW
Curated by Matt Format the front window of the Imperial Hotel (fronting Erskineville Rd) will feature a different local artist installation each month. The May installation can be viewed now and is showcasing the work of Matt Format.