It’s Friday night, 2011. You’re in your bedroom with a couple of mates, pumping ‘Born This Way’ on a loop and taking mirror selfies with your Blackberry. You chug your last vodka cranberry and fill a water bottle with the remaining brew, before hopping on a train to Museum station.
You make your way down Oxford Street, your head abuzz with the strange sights, sounds, and smells of Darlinghurst, before queuing in the queer-filled line to ARQ, the premium destination for Sydney gays, bis, girls and theys since 1999 (which is fitting, because the club was most certainly imbued with the spirit of partying like it’s 1999).
After making your way through what feels like the never-ending line to get in and lying to the bouncers about how far you’d gone at pres, you beeline to the smoking section that has affectionally been dubbed ‘Trash Alley’.
It was not a spot along the way. It was THE destination.
You force your way down the alley, heaving through crowds of people. Lit ciggies singeing your cheap leather jacket, the scent of poppers and spilt booze in the air. You’re home.
The club literally features three levels, several bars, a pokie room, and even a goddamn spa for all your ~*soaking*~ needs, and yet the alley was the mecca of the club. The meeting place. The epicentre.
Those musty, gratified walls have seen a lot, haven’t they? Many a make-out, break-up, make-up, bitch fight, and the forming of new friendships.
The thought of being sandwiched between that many sweaty people in a post-pandemic world makes my soul shudder, but trust me, ya had to be there. And I’m so bloody glad that I was.
Yesterday it was announced that ARQ is officially up for sale, going for somewhere between somewhere between $45-$50 million.
It’s heartbreaking to think that the next generation of queer folk won’t have such a place to visit during their formative years (if we ever get out of this mess, that is).
You’ll never catch me complaining about the decade I was born in again because at least we got to experience ARQ, and more importantly Trash Alley, in all its glory.
If only I knew on my last visit that it would be my final smoko in Trash Alley…
Back in the day, I would hit ARQ as a single queer bloke with my mates every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, sometimes even Sunday. Then a couple years back, I returned with my longterm partner and we had a ball. Here’s footage from my last-ever ARQcident (a term for when you ~accidentally~ end up at ARQ).
But listen, they can take down that ‘ARQ’ sign, but the spirit of the alley and the many many memories it holds will flow through Oxford Street for all of eternity.
Vale, friends. I’ll meet ya in Trash Alley x
Matty Galea is the Senior Entertainment Editor at Pedestrian who also dabbles in woo-woo stuff like astrology and crystals and has been penning horoscopes since the start of his career. He also Tweets about pop culture and astrology and posts spicy content on Instagram.