Sydney lockout laws lifted but more time needed to revive night-life
Source: The Daily Telegraph
Author: Danielle Le Messurier
Date: 14 January 2020
Sydney’s controversial CBD lockout laws have been lifted everywhere except for Kings Cross but venue operators are warning that fully resurrecting the city’s night-life will be a “slow burn”.
The restrictions were hailed as a solution to reducing incidents of alcohol-fuelled violence when they were first introduced by the O’Farrell government in February 2014.
But the 1.30am lockout – which was officially scrapped Tuesday morning – and 3am last drinks rules have hurt the city’s night-time economy, with Deloitte analysis showing they could be costing as much as $16 billion a year.
The NSW government moved to relax the laws after a parliamentary committee recommended they be axed from venues in the CBD and on Oxford Street “with appropriate urgency”.
The changes involve extending last drinks to 3.30am, ditching restrictions that ban the sale of shots after midnight, and allowing bottle shops across NSW to stay open an hour longer.
Australian Venue Co. chief executive Paul Waterson – who oversees King St Wharf venues Cargo, Bungalow 8 and The Loft – is celebrating the lockouts being abolished by putting on DJs, a new shots menu and free late-night pizzas.
But he is not expecting a miracle overnight.
“This weekend I think we’re going to get a good uptake in customers … then I think more generally it will be a slow burn to bring the city back to what it was pre-lockout days,” said Mr Waterson, also a member of the Night Time Industries Association.
“Now the government has given us this opportunity we need to step up and show that we are responsible with what we’ve been given.”
NSW Liquor & Gaming figures show 418 licensed premises have closed in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross since the lockouts were introduced in 2014.
The Committee for Sydney think tank is concerned by how far the city – which has a population of 5 million people – is lagging behind other similar cities when it comes to late-night establishments.
Sydney currently has 802 bars and 432 live music venues while Melbourne has 2840 bars and 553 music venues, according to a 2018 Bloomberg World Cities Culture Report.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles has 1644 bars and 409 music venues while Stockholm has 1500 bars and 1800 music venues.
“Looking at somewhere like Melbourne, which has really embraced its night time economy and can boast a really strong range of bars, restaurant and performance venues, shows what Sydney can achieve – and how far it has to go,” said director of advocacy James Hulme.
“Removing the lock out laws in parts of the city will not transform Sydney’s night-life immediately, and we will need to be patient as the city’s night time economy recovers.”
Sydney Business Chamber executive Katherine O’Regan said the removal of the lockouts would also benefit some 200,000 late-night workers.
“There’s a bunch of Sydneysiders that do things at night, and it’s called work,” she said.
Police Minister David Elliott said he expected businesses and individuals to “show some responsibility for the prevention of alcohol-related crime”.
“We don’t have to trade liveability for safety and police will continue to conduct patrols and operations in the Sydney CBD to make sure we don’t go back to the bad old days,” he said.