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November 9, 2023

Rundle Street nightclub Sugar reborn for summer

The iconic East End venue will rise from the ashes on December 1 and reopen under a group which also owns Cry Baby, Shotgun Willie’s and more.

  • Words: David Simmons

“Good things come to those who wait,” Sugar founder Driller Jet Armstrong told CityMag.


Sugar will reopen 1 December with a headline show from Joe Claussell
Follow the club on Instagram

It’s been nearly a year since Sugar closed, but in true Driller fashion the club simply refuses to disappear.

After cryptic clues were posted on the venue’s Instagram over the last few weeks, rumours swirled about the East End institution’s rebirth.

Those whispers proved true, with this writer hearing the news via a simple text from the Sugar founder on Monday: “It’s on brother. Dec 1”.

On that date, the doors will swing back open to the club at 275 Rundle St. To celebrate, Brooklyn producer and DJ Joe Claussell will grace the club’s rotary mixer for an opening night party.

He’ll be the first to send tunes out of a revamped Funktion-One sound system and will be backed by new lighting rigs. The rest of Sugar, including the recently updated venue fit out designed by Driller’s wife Mariot Kerr, will remain largely unchanged.

What will also remain the same is the presence of Driller. While still a shareholder of the business, Sugar is now part of the Gonzo Group – a growing hospitality business that owns venues Cry Baby, Shotgun Willie’s, Memphis Slim’s House of Blues and El Camino.

Driller will also stick around to be the “artistic heart of the venue”, and will look after artist bookings and the general creative direction of the space. Gonzo Group will be the operational heart of the business.

“It’s the absolute best outcome,” Driller told CityMag.

“It’s so great having these guys on board, and the best part is that all I have to do is worry about what I really enjoy doing, which is booking the acts. I don’t have to do anything with tax, with police, with liquor licensing anymore.

“I couldn’t be happier actually.”


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When InDaily spoke to Driller in June, the founder heralded the sale of the business as the “end of a 20-year art project”. That’s no longer the case, and Driller has plans to return the club to its former glory: “It’s like Sugar on steroids” he said.

“I think the East End will welcome us back with open arms.

“The impression I get is that people missed Sugar because there’s not many places where you can go and you’ll find a real mix of ages. That’s the key – it’s for the young and the young at heart.”

Gonzo Group co-founder Jon Di Pinto was similarly thrilled at the outcome.

“It’s totally in line with a lot of what we’re doing. We focus heavily on music-oriented venues, with Cry Baby being that sort of rock and roll and Memphis being the blues and Shotgun being the country,” said Jon, who runs Gonzo Group with co-founder Sean Howard.

“Sugar is an underground music hub. Driller has been working on it for probably longer than I’ve been able to drink – so it fits in really well.

“We’re all about the late-night trade and Sugar pretty much originated all that sort of stuff.”

Jon said the East End was crying out for the return of the nightclub.

“There’s been such a hole without it there. I speak to people of the East End and people at the Cranker and the Exeter, they all want to see it open again,” he said.

“It just creates such a good vibe down that end.”

Sugar will reopen on 1 December. Follow the club on Instagram for updates.

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