February 2018 marks four years since the lockout laws hit Sydney's entertainment precinct. In that time, venues have shut up shop (like Hugos Lounge, which directly attributed the lockout laws to its closure), others have closed and reopened under new ownership (The Flinders and The Lansdowne, among them) and Kings Cross, once the nightlife hub of the city, has turned into a ghost town after midnight. Moreover, tens of thousands of people have rallied in opposition to the laws.
That's why entrepreneur Paul G Roberts, founder of Fashion Industry Broadcast and Style Planet TV, decided to make a documentary titled After the Lockouts. When Roberts, who previously ran Melbourne night club Checkpoint Charlie, first moved to Sydney in the late 1990s, the nightlife was, in his words, "amazing". "You were spoilt for choice," he says. "You could go out from sunset to sunrise, seeing bands, going to clubs, going to cool bars...it's really not the same anymore."
But, rather than mourn and complain, he wanted to get to do more research on the matter. So, with a camera crew in tow, he spent most of 2017 researching, studying media representations, speaking to venue owners and travelling to cities around the world, to find out how they manage busy nighttime economies without lockouts. "I wanted to cut through the spin and get down to the facts, the evidence," he says.
After the Lockouts gains authority with interviews with some of Sydney's leading nightlife figures, including Keep Sydney Open's hardworking Tyson Koh, Mark Gerber (Oxford Art Factory), Maurice Terzini (Icebergs Dining Room), councillor Jess Scully and Dave Evans, former owner of Hugos Lounge, which closed down in mid-2015 due to revenue loss following the lockouts. There's also a tour of Amsterdam with night mayor Mirik Milan, who, since 2014, has overseen the city's nocturnal happenings. The documentary doesn't seem to include any interviews with any NSW Government spokespeople.
Through the doco, Roberts also poses alternative solutions to the laws — that is, strategies for reversing the laws and renewing the city's vibrant all-night scene. "I'm very confident that anyone who sits through the whole film will walk out with a new perspective," says Roberts. "There are so many people doing a Herculean job to fight the lockout laws...but there needs to be a united voice. There needs to be an ongoing campaign to put pressure on the government. The film is just the first part of a multi-pointed campaign."
After the Lockouts will premiere at a private gala screening tonight, February 1. The plan is to then roll it out across cinemas and the Internet. For more info, visit afterthelockouts.com.