The 1990s may seem like yesterday to many of us, but they’re now three decades ago – and our area has changed a lot since then.

We take a look back at what Kings Cross and Potts Point looked like back in the 1990s.

Where Sydney came to celebrate

In the 1990s, Potts Point and Kings Cross were all about the big night out. When Sydney celebrated, this is where it happened. If the big night happened elsewhere, it was where you inevitably ended up in the wee hours of the morning.

Darlinghurst Road was home to the iconic Bourbon and Beefsteak – one of Sydney’s best-known pubs, where the party seemingly never stopped. But there were several other pubs, nightclubs and watering holes that people would travel across town to visit, including Mansions Hotel, Soho Bar and Lounge, Sugarmill, Fishbowl, all-night venue Baron’s, the upmarket Hugo’s Lounge and downmarket Bar Century.

Then there were the live music venues like the Tom Tom Club and the places where people came to dance (mainly to techno), such as Candy’s Apartment and World Bar.

Most had disappeared by the 2010s when Sydney’s strict lockout laws made Kings Cross a less attractive destination for revellers. Many have since been redeveloped into residential apartments.

Crime and corruption

It certainly wasn’t all innocent fun in Potts Point in the 1990s. It was still very much the era of strip clubs, street crime, and small-time grifters (captured forever in the 1999 film Two Hands).

In the mid-to-late 1990s, the Royal Commission into NSW Police Corruption found that Kings Cross detectives were actively involved in the local drugs trade. This era in the history of the Kings Cross was also the subject of the popular drama series Underbelly: The Golden Mile.

The run-up to the Olympics

In 1993, Sydney won the bid to host the 2000 Olympics, and much of the next seven years were spent preparing for them. Potts Point, with its many hotels – including the Sebel Town House, The Rex, and many others – welcomed so many visitors from around the world.

However, the Olympics proved to be the last hurrah for a lot of Kings Cross hotels. In the early 2000s, demand for hotel rooms dropped, and many were gradually converted into apartment blocks.

Alongside this, some major new high-rise apartment buildings transformed the area and created controversy. These included the Harry Seidler designed Horizon Apartments in Darlinghurst in 1998 and the Elan Building above the Kings Cross Tunnel in 1997. Taking a trip back in time, buyers could pick up a one-, two- or three-bedroom apartment in the brand new Elan Building in 1997 from between $250,000 to around $800,000, with the two penthouses achieving over $1.5 million each. One of these penthouses later traded for over $10 million in 2018.

From little things, big things grow…

While we’re on the subject, it was at one Kings Cross hotel, the Tropicana Cafe at the base of the ‘Top of the Town’, that our area gave birth to one of the world’s great film festivals.

In 1993, actor John Polson organised an informal short film screening in the cafe for cast, crew, family and friends. It grew into the Tropicana Short Film Festival, or Tropfest as it’s known today.

The Festival soon moved to a closed-off section of Victoria Street, then to Rushcutters Bay Park and eventually to the Domain before being screened around the world. 2022 marked 30 years of the festival, which has helped launch the careers of so many Australian actors, screenwriters and film directors, including Rebel Wilson, Nash Edgerton, Robert Connolly and Alethea Jones.

Want more?

If you’re interested in buying or selling in Potts Point, contact my team today.

Photo credits: Wikimedia

Article by Jason Boon

In a real estate market that is the focus of Australian, and indeed worldwide attention, Jason Boon's results in the Sydney scene make him a highly significant figure within the industry. A long-term specialist in the Potts Point and inner eastern suburbs area, he is uniquely placed to leverage his skills and local knowledge as the area undergoes significant change and diversification. Jason ha…