In what can only be described as a potentially epic win after a long, hard stretch in Sydney’s cultural history, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced yesterday that the city’s lockout laws would be relaxed in the CBD entertainment precinct.
“It’s time to enhance Sydney’s nightlife,” Berejiklian said in a statement to the AAP. “Sydney is Australia’s only global city and we need our nightlife to reflect that.”
The concession comes five years after former premier Barry O’Farrell introduced the controversial regulations, as an effort to diminish alcohol-fuelled violence after coward punches claimed the lives of Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie.
The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) – a collective of Sydney businesses from the music, arts, retail, media and hospitality sectors, formed in response to the impact of the lockout laws – welcomed Berejiklian’s announcement, but also warned that “the work isn’t done yet.”
Chair of the NTIA and Managing Director of Time Out Australia, Michael Rodrigues, said a “suite of reforms,” was needed to rehabilitate Sydney’s nightlife in the wake of the lockout laws rollback. “There is going to need to be a lot more work done beyond the lockouts to restore the perception of Sydney and put the region back on the map as a global destination,” he added.
Specifics have not yet been confirmed, but for now, it appears the repeal applies only to the CBD and that current restrictions will remain in place in Kings Cross. New legislation will need to be passed, and while Berejiklian looks to introduce the changes before the end of the year, the final decision will depend on a pending report from a cross-party parliamentary committee review, which is due on September 30.
“We’re keenly looking forward to the report from this inquiry,” Rodrigues said. “Our concern in the interim remains that as long as lockouts are in place in Kings Cross, Sydney’s global brand reputation will be unnecessarily tarnished.”
Rodrigues emphasised the need for night-time businesses and authorities to work together to realise the shared goal of revitalising Sydney's nightlife. “Of course Sydney can have a safe and inclusive entertainment culture that recognises the valid concerns of police and health services providers. But we can do this in a way where we can seize the opportunity to create a thriving nightlife, creating jobs and contributing millions to the economy,” he said. “If other cities around the world can do it, so can we.”
More than 170 venues have closed since the 1.30am curfew and 3am last-call time were enacted in 2014, but this latest glimmer of hope, coupled with the nearing completion of the light rail and a major push for 24-hour trading for unlicensed CBD businesses from the City of Sydney could mean big things for the city. Stay tuned.
Down to hit the town after hours right now? Head to one of these late-night bars and pubs without lockouts.