Just shy of six years after former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell’s controversial lockout laws came into effect, Sydney’s nightlife is beginning a new chapter. The announcement bar pros and punters alike have been waiting for finally arrived today, announced at a press conference held by NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet and minister for jobs, investment and tourism, Stuart Ayres: the lockout laws that have held Sydney’s night time economy in a headlock since February 2014 are to be almost entirely rolled back.
The news that the hugely unpopular regulations would be scrapped in the CBD’s entertainment precinct, including the Oxford Street area, had been tantalisingly foreshadowed. Firstly by premier Berejiklian, who made a surprise statement on September 9 – perplexingly on a Sunday – declaring the lockout laws had damaged both Sydney’s economy and its international reputation and should therefore be axed. This was then echoed by the findings of the government-appointed select committee, released in late September, which after an extensive investigation recommended the laws be repealed “with appropriate urgency.”
And it certainly seems as if those words were taken to heart. Less than a month later, the date of January 14 has been confirmed as the official end of lockout legislation. The new paradigm is not quite a wholesale reversal of restrictions; the lockout laws will remain in effect in the Kings Cross area, and will be reviewed in a year’s time. However, the news is overwhelming positive for Sydney’s hospitality industries. The 1.30am ‘last entry’ requirement in the CBD entertainment precinct has been lifted, and the prohibitions of service after midnight of cocktails and spirits-based beverages, as well as drinks containing more than 50 per cent spirits and shots, has also gone. Small bars can raise their patron capacity from the previous cap of 100 to 120, and ‘last drinks’ calls have been pushed from 3.00am to 3.30am. Bottle shops are also permitted to trade later, extending their hours from 11pm to midnight Monday to Saturday and from 10pm to 11pm on Sunday.
Few, on either side of the bar, will be sad to see the back of the lockout laws, however, Sydney will now no doubt enter a period of rehabilitation, as the city’s cultural habits adjust to the possibilities of a reinvigorated late night scene. So, if you’re asking yourself, ‘How can I help get Sydney’s nightlife back on its feet?’, it’s as simple as supporting your local bar or pub. Seek out that trendy new wine boutique or quirky gin joint; go see that cabaret show or hear that hot new band; and embrace everything this vibrant city of ours has to offer after sunset.