Murder on the Dancefloor: Tales from Late-Stage Hospitality - The Bar Fight

The nightclub on Collins Street had no official cloakroom, and the alcohol-saturated crowds began shedding their jackets: dancing with silk over their arm, a sleeve dangling by their knee.

A white line artwork on a black background, depicting a crowd of distorted, abstract people on the l

Content warning: drugs and alcohol; physical, sexual and verbal harassment


The nightclub on Collins Street had no official cloakroom, and the alcohol-saturated crowds began shedding their jackets: dancing with silk over their arm, a sleeve dangling by their knee. Withered accountants whispered lechery into the ears of younger women and fingered coke-stained wads of fifties. A woman delicately leaned under the bar’s far end and vomited. A busboy swept up the kaleidoscope of glass and liquor at the feet of two young bankers, and spot-fires of aggression in the crowd were ignited and suffocated in sequence. The patrons shouted at staff to hurry with their drinks.

The night manager saw a bartender’s distress—her frantic movements, the tenseness in her voice—and allowed her five minutes to cry in the cool room. Her absence was felt by the others, who felt the line at the bar swelling.

After seven minutes, the bartender wiped her eyes under the shadow of the drained kegs; as hard as she tried, she could not stop the tears earlier. As she returned, hastily dressed men and women with lipstick smears smoothed their clothes, stumbling out of the disabled bathroom in succession.

The universe pulsated within the venue. It seemed as though there was no “outside”—only the blinker vision of six hundred nouveau-riche staving off their cocaine crash in sweaty proximity to each other. The song changed, the crowd scowled, and at that moment the bikie gang were let into the venue.

Around twenty bikies and their dolled-up dates walked into the main room. The chaos of the seething dancefloor abated as the entire crowd turned their gaze to the entrance: their suits were fresh, pristine, in stark contrast to the onlookers who had long let their ensembles deteriorate. The atmosphere had become custard-thick as the perspiring corporate crowd struggled to re-establish themselves.

The bikies, beers in hand, carved their way through the wary dancers and stood by the DJ booth, their dates glancing imperiously over the crowd, sipping their vodkas. One of the women began dancing with a bikie, twirling and twisting in between drowned patrons, sending splashes of sticky pornstar martini and low-grade prosecco over the suede and linen of increasingly disgruntled men. More began to dance. Under the bassline’s thump, none-too-friendly words were exchanged, and the glares became bloody.

A bartender poured a gin and tonic between impatient slaps on the bar. She kept her head down as she worked—mostly to avoid the competing shouts for her attention—but lifted it to give the patron their drink. Instantly, the hands waved closer to her face, and she winced. Between insistent hands and shouts, she saw a stiletto heel catch on the curve of a piece of broken glass the busboy had missed. The woman stumbled, bumping into another, and knocked the vodka out of her hand.

The security, busy attending four other misdemeanours, could not stop the incident from escalating. The night manager turned away from a red-faced patron demanding a refund. Just in time, he saw a dancefloor that had been twitching and shifting in barely contained menace erupt into its predestined aggression.

The music cut, screams interlacing with bellows of fury. Jackets were trampled on the saturated floor as faceless men launched fists and expletives through the air. The staff’s calls for order were lost in the racket. The night manager, who attempted to push the violence outside of the venue, shouted at the security through a split lip, but they were busy losing a battle against men who knew how to fight. Through the chaos, a seersucker arm moved in a piston-like motion into some felled target in repetition. Men dragged their belligerent mates to the exit and the floor began to clear out.

When it was over, and the night manager took a report with the police, the pack-down was silent. Broken glass glittered on the floor, spilt alcohol lay in puddles everywhere and security sat to the side with icepacks on their skulls. The staff slowly cleaned as the sticky night fell away and the grim, wintery dawn arrived.


Farrago's magazine cover - Edition One 2024


It’s 2012 and you have just opened Tumblr. A photo pops up of MGMT in skinny jeans, teashade sunglasses and mismatching blazers that are reminiscent of carpets and ‘60s curtains. Alexa Chung and Alex Turner have just broken up. His love letter has been leaked and Tumblr is raving about it—”my mouth hasn’t shut up about you since you kissed it.” Poetry at its peak: romance is alive.

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