Removal of Sydney’s lockout laws
Today, in the early hours of the morning, Sydney’s lock-out laws will be removed in parts of the city. Winding them back in the quiet days of January is a sensible move and reflection that many parts of the community remain nervous about a return to “the bad old days”.
No one wants that, not least the businesses and operators that have suffered directly or indirectly because of the laws. However, whilst the removal of the lockouts is symbolic and important, it marks the first step in a long road to revive Sydney’s nightlife.
NSW Government has recognised this and is currently beavering away of a wide-ranging plan to make Sydney late again. Some reforms are pretty straightforward, such as having one minister to champion the night time sector – which employs over 30,000 people in Sydney – and getting rid of spurious regulation that chokes creativity and private enterprise.
Other reforms will take more time, such as ensuring more late night transport that gives people the confidence to go out at night or convincing more retailers to open their stops and services later into the night. The planning system also has a role in making sure night time venues – pubs, restaurants, theatres, music halls – are part of future developments.
Perhaps most importantly, we also need a lighter touch when it comes to regulating and policing our night life. Requiring ID scanners for local restaurants or banning types of music don’t belong in a world city like Sydney. Bringing police dogs into nightclubs and restaurants sends a message that venues are not safe and discourages people from visiting them. Security is important but a much more common sense approach is required.
Industry also needs to play its part. To help promote a safe night out, councils and operators should look to introduce an accreditation scheme for the night time economy, along the lines of the Purple Flag initiative in the UK and NZ. This type of scheme raises the bar for evening experiences and demonstrates that night time providers take safety and security seriously. It would be a reassuring move.
Let’s also be imaginative in designing our future night life. Both Liverpool and Parramatta have ambitious plans to develop their night time economy. Chatswood has one of the most exciting dining scenes in the city. Even Kings Cross could leave its past behind to become a theatre district, Sydney’s answer to Broadway or London’s West End.
This is not just an issue about fun. The night time economy is a big part of our current and future economic success. In the UK, the night time economy is now its fifth biggest industry and is outpacing the growth of its day time economy. Research from Deloitte suggests that Sydney is missing out on about $16 billion a year because its night-time economy is underdeveloped. So, enhancing our night time experience will not just make our city more appealing, it will bring wider benefits. Whilst our night time experience has declined in recent years, we still have a great story to tell – from Blacktown Night Market to evening concerts at Taronga Zoo. Let’s celebrate the things we already do well, whilst striving to be even better.