The old laws helping cops shut down bikie clubhouses statewide

They were once heaving party joints, filled to the brim with cheap grog and bad manners.

But the once thriving bikie clubhouses which were scattered by the dozens across the state's suburbs and towns have become an endangered species.

Their unrelenting predator - a group of no-frills cops using a 75-year-old piece of legislation only brought in during WWII to stop spies from learning the nation's secrets via Sydney's brothels and sly grog shops.

Then Justice Minister Robert 'Reg' Downing, the man whose name now adorns the city's Downing Centre court precinct, told NSW Parliament in 1943 that authorities needed extra powers to shut down the dens of debauchery in the interests of national security.

"The defence authorities were confirmed in their opinion that these types of places were the most likely hunting grounds for enemy agents desiring information, they are a danger to the mental and physical health of the forces, and that their closing was more than justified on moral grounds," he told parliament.

"That was demanded in the interests of national security, if tremendous and irreparable injury to the war effort and military operations was to be avoided."

But he would never have envisaged the Restricted Premises Act (1943) would be used to cull the party culture of outlaw bikie gangs more than 70 years later.

With some helpful refining by lawmakers, and the cunning eye of one resourceful cop who rediscovered the legislation, it has allowed police to storm the bikies' headquarters en masse and destroy their culture.

Just last Tuesday, the anti-bikie squad Strike Force Raptor made history again, gaining the first NSW Supreme Court order to shut down the Nomads clubhouse in inner Newcastle, a fickle building that had stood for decades on a suburban street as a sign of anti-authority for the one percenters.

It had been a place where former bikie enforcer Sam Ibrahim was once accused of being involved in the kneecapping of two wayward members - he was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

And in 2001 it was the scene of one of the then biggest drug investigations in the nation's history, with Strike Force Sibret smashing an amphetamine racket worth hundreds of millions of dollars and sending several bikies to jail for more than 30 years.

But no more.

With a drill bit and a piece of plastic-covered paper, police adorned the outside of the fortified building with the court order.

In simple terms, it now means that Nomads face charges and jail time by hanging out together. Police can now turn up without a search warrant, giving new meaning to the term fun police.

It is understood the bikies are consulting lawyers.

And although this time it was the strike of a pen which shut down the clubhouse, police have used the legislation with brute force since discovering their new tool nearly a decade ago.

More than 50 clubhouses have now been ripped apart by law enforcement since, with some estimates suggesting less than five bikie chapter headquarters remain across NSW.

And sometimes, the cops have been brutal.

The legislation suggests authorities can confiscate anything to do with illegal liquor sales. But it didn't stop at the alcohol. Glasses, fridges, bars and even beer mats have been taken during the raids.

Even stages and stripper poles have been dismantled. Sledgehammers have been taken to bars.

As Criminal Groups Squad commander Detective Superintendent Deb Wallace says: "When we looked closely at how we were going to tackle the outlaw motorcycle gangs, we quickly identified we needed to disrupt their ethos.

"Using this legislation has allowed us to take the attractiveness out of being in an outlaw motorcycle gang.

"Some of these clubs were better than RSL clubs.

"It has been successful because it is no longer fun for them. They have attempted to survive and thrive because of a misguided reputation of being against authority.

"We have taken the power off them."

But the demise of the big clubhouses has also seen the emergence of new meeting places - almost men's shed for bikies.

Garages and backyard sheds have been turned into bikie caves to allow the leather-clad lads to continue to meet and greet.

"They are more like cubby houses than the traditional large clubhouses. That can't be good for anyone's reputation," Detective Superintendent Wallace said.

The aura has changed.