A NSW parliamentary committee has released a report today recommending Sydney’s lockout laws be axed in the CBD, “with appropriate urgency". This would include licensed venues on Oxford Street, the main drag of Sydney’s LGBTQIA district. Restrictions on the sale of high-alcohol content drinks and shots after midnight should also be lifted, and trading hours for the sale of takeaway alcohol should be increased by an hour, to midnight Monday to Saturday and 11pm on Sunday, says the report.
However, the report maintained that the lockout laws should remain in effect in Kings Cross, stating that “due to the historical nature of Kings Cross, venue density and the small size of the precinct, there is a high risk that if the 2014 laws were removed, violence would increase". The laws were originally introduced in response to the one-punch attacks in Kings Cross that claimed the lives of Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie.
The report detailed a decrease in non-domestic assaults in the Kings Cross area of 52.8% since the lockout laws were introduced in 2014, adding that a review of the lockout legislation in Kings Cross would be appropriate in 12 months' time. A program of urban upgrades – including improvements to make the area more pedestrian-friendly, eliminate black spots, improve signage, and increase lighting – would benefit the Kings Cross area, it concluded.
The report also suggested incentivising good behaviours, recommending that Liquor and Gaming NSW “recognise and reward” licensees for self-policing.
The government is yet to respond formally to the report, but earlier this month, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian shared her willingness to repeal the controversial legislation, stating on September 8 that the lockout regulations, instituted by former premier Mike Baird in 2014, had caused economic and reputational damage to Sydney’s nightlife. This was confirmed by the parliamentary committee’s investigation, which estimated a loss of $16 billion a year to the city’s night-time economy since the lockout laws were introduced.
The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), chaired by Time Out Australia managing director Michael Rodrigues, welcomed the committee’s recommendations. “This extensive report recognises the range of measures NSW needs to take if it is to rebuild the night-time economy, and return vibrancy to Sydney,” Rodrigues says.
Another key recommendation of the report advises the introduction of "an overarching coordinator to bring together all relevant stakeholders", potentially overseen by a government agency under the direction of an appointed minister. “If NSW is to reclaim up to $16 billion annually from the night-time economy, the appointment of a minister is an essential piece of the puzzle," Rodrigues said. "The NTIA have campaigned for over a year for this appointment, and we look forward to the government confirming who this will be."
While optimistic about the future of Sydney's nightlife, Rodrigues said the NTIA also urged caution, saying that “tangible action” beyond relaxing the regulation of alcohol would be vital to realising the goal of undoing the damage done to Sydney’s nightlife. “This report is just the beginning. Intentions must be developed to restore Sydney to the world stage as a city people can enjoy in the daylight and after dark… It is up to the [hospitality] industry to demonstrate to government and the public at large that Sydney’s nightlife can be rebuilt as one that is diverse and inclusive, with activities that are not solely dependent on the consumption of alcohol... Our industry will remain united and committed to working together at the state and local government level, with the City of Sydney and the public. We will endeavour to create a thriving nightlife and new jobs, and in the process, make a significant economic and cultural contribution to Sydney as Australia’s global city.”