The lifting of the lockout laws is upon us, and it’s a time of celebration for Sydney’s nightlife. While the shine may have dulled on the iconic Coke sign of Kings Cross, which will continue operating under the 1.30am lockout legislation (for the time being at least), bars and clubs across the rest of the city will have new life breathed into them with the abandonment of the restrictive laws that have seen the nighttime economy suffer and the city's reputation slump.
Time Out has been with Sydney throughout these six years of struggle since the lockouts were introduced in 2014. We were out on the streets of the Cross the weekend before the fateful laws kicked in back in 2014. We called for a new way forward in 2016 and spoke to DJs, promoters and musicians about the changes to the city. And we celebrated in November last year, when it was announced that the lockout laws will be lifted in the CBD.
According to the ABC, citing the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, 270 Sydney venues closed during the six years of the lockout laws.
Now the legislation has been rolled back, the question remains: is Sydney poised for a late night renaissance? The answer to this will likely hinge on the generation of younger punters who have never known a pre-lockout Sydney. However, Michael Rodrigues, Chair of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) and the Managing Director of Time Out Australia, is optimistic, saying the scrapping of the lockouts is “the beginning of Sydney getting its mojo back”.
“This is a turning point for the city and is the result of work by many across government, industry and the general public to get Sydney back on track,” he said. “It’s fantastic the city will entertain locals and visitors in a diverse and inclusive nightlife without being rushed around venues closing early.”
This week sees events all across the city celebrating the demise of the lockouts, as well as an increased police presence on the streets. Over at the Oxford Art Factory (OAF), they’ll be hosting their first lockout-free night of trading on Friday January 17. “The 14th of January is a day in history when we, as providers of all things music and culture, are able to come back to some semblance of how we used to operate successfully five years ago,” says Mark Gerber, the venue’s CEO and Founder and a member of NTIA. “The OAF welcomes the changes to the lockout laws and will work to make those changes both safe and coherent additions to our trading hours for all who come to us. Onwards and upwards Sydney!”
The reality is that Sydney's nightlife is unlikely to immediately return to its former glory; there’s a lot of work to be done by the industry, and as we reported in November, the new paradigm is not quite a wholesale reversal of restrictions. However, if like us, you’re someone who wants to see the city flourish at night again, the best thing you can do is party – go out and support your favourite venues and embrace everything our city has to offer once the sun goes down.