The streets and backdoor laneways of Sydney CBD once heaved with office workers in their suits, enjoying a Friday afternoon tipple. Since COVID, many offices haven’t been running at full capacity and the city’s vibrant nightlife has temporarily dimmed. In a bold move, a group of bar owners from the laneways of York, Clarence and Kent streets have banded together to brand themselves as YCK Laneways.
To entice people back into the CBD, these tattooed cool cats have organised the inaugural YCK Laneways Block Party to celebrate the area from now until May 22. Ten venues will host a range of cultural events over the six weeks of the festival. If live music, dance parties, poetry and comedy aren’t enough to entice you, there’s Spawn Point’s Dungeons & Dragons drinks night, the Prince of York’s Drag Queen Bingo or Stitch Bar’s South of the Border Mexican celebration.
YCK Laneways hasn’t emerged as a hive of nightlife overnight, but rather, the area has been growing with each new bar opening. Looking to capitalise on this, local bar owners and workers got together, came up with the YCK name and decided to hold the laneways festival.
Lara Dignam, co-owner of participating venue Papa Gede’s, said: “We’re just trying to formalise what’s already been happening. We wanted to give a name to the area and there was no better time to do that than after we’d all gone through this whole ordeal [of the COVID-19 pandemic].”
Naming the area YCK Laneways will help transform ‘those bars near Town Hall’ to a more defined presence for those seeking a night out in the city.
Ms Dignam said it hasn’t been easy running a business during the pandemic but, now that the YCK Block Party has garnered the support of City of Sydney, Bombay Sapphire and Patrón Tequila, they’ve stopped dodging bullets and started firing them.
While the laneways festival will stretch for six weeks, YCK will live beyond the event. Nick White, director of bar SILY, told Concrete Playground: “It’s our hope that YCK becomes as much a part of the Sydney vernacular as The Rocks, or Chinatown.”
While the participating bars are the focus of the festival, the area extends beyond the 10 venues. Several more bars and a range of restaurants also call the area home. Browse to your taste across the many other options, including delicious Japanese food at Michi Izakaya & Ramen or Gold Class Daruma, enjoy local favourite Caffe’ Amici, or try Fortune Village Chinese Restaurant.
Explore more: ycklaneways.com.au
The 10 YCK Laneways bars
The Barber Shop
Australia’s Gin Bar of the Year for four years running (2016-2019) is also literally a barber shop. Sample some of their 700-odd gins while listening to spinning DJs.
The Duke of Clarence
At this gorgeous small bar, feast on British eats and lounge on British decor. There’s a vibrant energy and European wines to cleanse the stresses of your day.
Spoil yourself with tiki-style cocktails, served by silver-tongued bar staff. You will feel equally at home in a booth or dominating the dancefloor.
The Lobo hosts over 250 different rums; try one of the special ‘rum flights’ that take you on a journey through Central America or the Caribbean.
Papa Gede’s Bar
All the taste of acclaimed cocktails with all the familiarity of a neighbourhood get-together, Papa Gede’s makes you feel like a regular right from your first sip.
Prince of York and Pamela’s
Exercise your recently revived right to dance, right here. Dine upstairs at Prince of York, then join the disco deep into the night downstairs at Pamela’s.
Hidden between heritage storehouses, SILY (Since I Left You) offers a unique dose of Sydney culture. Its laneway site hosts live music and street-style art.
Masquerading as a traditional venue for excellent food and drinks, this small bar is also a gamer’s dream. The retro-gaming consoles add a dash of nostalgia.
Take the grand staircase underground to this vintage-styled American diner. Put a rare whisky in one hand and one of Sydney’s best burgers in the other.
This beautiful Asian-themed bar, with Chinese decor and Japanese-infused cocktails, offers a colourful vibe that transports you from the grey CBD above.