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Sydney's Strangling Lockout Laws Could Finally Be Relaxed

The NSW Government has ordered a review of the city's night-time economy and lockout laws — five years after they were introduced.
By Samantha Teague
May 29, 2019
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Sydney's Strangling Lockout Laws Could Finally Be Relaxed

The NSW Government has ordered a review of the city's night-time economy and lockout laws — five years after they were introduced.
By Samantha Teague
May 29, 2019
  shares

Five years after Sydney's lockout laws were introduced by Liberal Premier Barry O'Farrell, it could be a Liberal Government that finally winds them back. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has this morning announced a review of the city's night-time economy — which will include the lockout laws.

The ten-member cross-party committee — made up of politicians from both the upper and lower house, the NSW Government and cross-benchers — will consult with police, health, entertainment and live music stakeholders to decide if, and what, changes need to be made.

It will consider factors such as community safety and possible ways to enhance the night-time economy, with Ms Berejiklian saying in a statement that the government is hoping to "strike a balance between limiting alcohol-related violence and maintaining a vibrant night-time economy".

While Ms Berejiklian says the lockout laws have done a lot of good since their introduction in 2014 — saying, "the number of non-domestic violent assaults have declined in the Sydney CBD Entertainment and Kings Cross precincts" — there is evidence that they've done a lot of damage, too.

Credit: Andy Vermeulen / Destination NSW.

Kings Cross. Andy Vermeulen / Destination NSW.

A reported 176 venues have closed since the laws were introduced and, according to a report by Deloitte Access Economics, they have contributed to NSW missing out on $16 billion in potential profits, caused by an underdeveloped night-time economy.

This won't be the first review of Sydney's nightlife, either. A year-long parliamentary inquiry into the state of the Sydney's music and nightlife economy also found that the industry was in "peril" due to the NSW Government's history of neglect, and lack of funding. The government, in response to this inquiry, did not repeal or relax the lockouts — so it's possible they won't again. The 2016 Callinan report into liquor licensing only suggested the lockout time be extended by half an hour.

There are also some community groups that continue to stand by the lockout laws. The NSW/ACT Alcohol Policy Alliance, which is made up of 48 groups, including frontline emergency services, law enforcement and health services have said that the lockout laws have been "life-saving" and have led to a "sharp drop in alcohol-related violence".

But, this time round, it is looking slightly more promising — with Ms Berejiklian recently giving the go-ahead to relaxing a heap of licences. More than 20 venues have been granted half-an-hour live entertainment extensions, and Oxford Street, and the surrounding area, has gone lockout-free for Mardi Gras the past two years. Earlier this year, Chippendale favourite Freda's and Petersham's Oxford Tavern both had licences extended, too — although neither of them are located within lockout zones.

Either way, we'll have to wait a few months until we find out review's recommendations — and the NSW Government's response to them — with the committee set to report back by the end of September, 2019.

After that, any changes to lockout legislation will be need to be passed through parliament. Although, if the Coalition is bringing the motion to relax the lockout laws, it's likely it will be — especially as the Shooters, Farmers and Fishers Party has already expressed its support for scrapping them. You can check out the major parties' views on live music and the lockouts in our pre-state election wrap-up.

Image: Frankie's by Katje Ford.

Published on May 29, 2019 by Samantha Teague

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