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Oxford Hotel and Kinselas in Sydney, part of Universal Hotels

Small businesses celebrate Sydney Mardi Gras 2020

With Mardi Gras arriving in Sydney’s streets tomorrow, we wanted to take a look at how businesses are intertwining their brand with the LGBTQI+ campaign.

Back even thirty years ago, businesses and big brands wouldn’t have engaged in what would have been considered a ‘controversial’ movement, but obviously now times have changed.

We can see this change clearly as Sydney is this week painted with the iconic rainbow flag at every turn.

The campaign definitely isn’t exclusive only to the suburb of Darlinghurst and Oxford Street, which is known as Sydney’s main gay district.

LGBTQI+ colours have cropped up in Starbucks, Woolworths, The Galeries Victoria, King’s Cross Station and more.

ANZ’s ATMs have been dubbed as ‘Gay TMs’ in the city, featuring a very colourful and sparkly makeover.

‘Gay TMs’ in Sydney for Mardi Gras 2020
‘Gay TMs’ in Sydney for Mardi Gras 2020

A business that has truly capitalised on this opportunity to align brand values to the LGBTQI+ movement is ABSOLUT Vodka, with their signature bottles all adopting the rainbow design and their ads centred around the “Love is Love” slogan.

Last year, Sydney’s Mardi Gras saw a huge 500,000 people in attendance, with 80,000 people on fair day. Similar numbers are expected tomorrow.

Within that happy chaos, small businesses can themselves capitalise on this huge event to showcase their business to an increased volume of eyeballs and passers-by, as well as using their commercial presence to support the movement itself.

We spoke to Harris Kospetas, CEO of Universal Hotels, on how Mardi Gras 2020 is affecting his business, and how he and his staff plan to get involved.

Small businesses celebrate Sydney Mardi Gras 2020

All of the hotels in the group are in the Oxford Street area, at the very core of the parade, and where many after parties take place.

How will your business be getting involved in Mardi Gras 2020?

Universal Hotels owns and operates 4 diverse venues (Kinselas, Oxford Hotel, Universal and Brighton Hotel) on Oxford Street. Our venues the Oxford Hotel, Kinselas & Universal host many events leading up to the Mardi Gras such as Slay for Pay @ Universal, Buzz Racing @ Oxford, The Week @ Universal, Sissy Ball after party @ Universal , Macondo @ Universal , Trivia with Penny D @ Kinselas, Etcetera Etcetera @ Universal and many other notable events.

Why do you feel it’s important to align your business with clear values such as this LGBTQI parade?

Our venues have a long standing patronage with the community and Mardi Gras parade. Kinselas, for instance, has been famous since the early 1980’s as one of the most iconic multi venue establishments in Sydney. It is of utmost importance for us to support and encourage values of the LGBTQI community as these venues are all located in a historic part of Sydney. Midnight Shift, which is now Universal, was one of Sydney’s first iconic gay venues and has a history spanning 30+ years. Our aim has been to highlight the fun of Oxford St and revitalise the community by highlighting its history and what makes it so special as well as welcoming all types of people to enjoy great entertainment and offerings.

Do you think commercial brands have an influential role to play in Mardi Gras?

Absolutely – brands such as ABSOLUT vodka which is a major sponsor of the parade and Universal Hotels venues over the Mardi Gras period play a huge role in engaging the community and supporting equality.

Kinselas venue surrounded by crowds at Mardi Gras
Kinselas venue surrounded by crowds at Mardi Gras

What’s the biggest benefit, and the biggest challenge of running your businesses on Oxford St, during Mardi Gras?

The biggest benefit would be seeing people having a great time and enjoying the different entertainment offerings we provide. The biggest challenge would definitely be staffing, stock and logistical requirements. We are very fortunate to have such amazing staff & licensees who really go above and beyond during the week to ensure all runs smoothly.

On a separate note, have you seen many positive consequences of having the lockout laws lifted? How has this affected your businesses?

The removal of lockout laws have definitely been a positive step forward for Sydney’s nightlife and especially Oxford St. While it is a slow process and not going to happen overnight the positives that are already noticeable are seeing people have the freedom to move between venues. The streets after 1:30am are starting to look much more active and this is a sign that there could be some brighter times ahead for our nightlife.

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Loren Webb

Loren Webb

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