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Govt reveals plans to scrap Sydney lock-out laws

The New South Wales (NSW) government has announced it plans on scrapping Sydney’s controversial lock-out laws at the end of the year, except in the King’s Cross precinct.

A parliamentary committee has been conducting an inquiry into the effects of the lock-out laws, which were introduced in 2014 in response to alcohol-fuelled violence, and the wider night time economy, which will be presented on 30 September.

“I’m more than happy to relax or even repeal the laws depending on the committee’s findings,” NSW premier Galdys Berejiklian announced on Sunday (8 September).

“Community safety will always be a major focus for my government, but we need a balanced approach. Sydney is Australia’s only global city and we need our night-life to reflect that,” said Berejiklian.

The lock-out laws mandate bars, pubs, clubs and music venues set last entry to 1.30 a.m. and stop serving drinks at 3 a.m. The restrictions apply to establishments in the city’s central business district (CBD) and King’s Cross precinct.

“Sydney is Australia’s only global city and we need our night-life to reflect that”

Many, including Live Nation Australasia boss Roger Field and Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore, have stated that the laws have exerted a strong negative impact on the city’s nightlife. The planned changes to the laws have been welcomed by live music professionals.

John Wardle, general manager of music policy advocate Live Music Office, called the potential axing “a milestone in the rebuilding of the cultural and economic nighttime future of the city of Sydney.”

Keep Sydney Open, a grassroots movement opposing the laws, celebrated the decision – “a huge moment” –, while demanding more details about the decision to exclude King’s Cross and on what the changes would entail for venues.

However, the move has been criticised by the president of the Australian Medical Association, along with other medical professionals, as a step backwards for public health.

 


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Industry reps, politicians urge lock-out laws axing

An inquiry into Sydney’s night time economy has highlighted support from politicians including lord mayor Clover Moore and industry professionals for the scrapping of controversial lock-out laws.

The number of live music venues in Sydney has halved since the New South Wales (NSW) government introduced lock-out laws in 2014. The regulations restrict last entry to 1.30 a.m. and drinks licensing to 3 a.m. at bars, pubs, clubs and music venues in Sydney’s central business district (CBD) entertainment precinct.

Following an independent review in 2016, the NSW government relaxed regulations by half an hour for live entertainment venues.

The legislation was introduced following an increase in alcohol-related violence and antisocial behaviour in the city centre.

Speaking at a night time economy committee meeting, the city’s lord mayor Moore stated that “Sydney has lost its reputation over the five years following the introduction of the lock-out laws and associated measures.”

Moore said the laws have had a “devastating impact” on the city’s nightlife and night time economy.

The problem, according to Moore, lies in the failure to distinguish between well run and badly run venues.

“If the lockout laws are removed – we are recommending that they should be – we would be able to incentivise well-run venues, and penalise poorly-run venues”

“If the lockout laws are removed – we are recommending that they should be – we would be able to incentivis[e] well run venues, and penalis[e] poorly run venues,” Moore told the committee.

Live Nation Australasia chief executive, Roger Field, showed his support for the removal of lock-out laws at the close of the hearing on Monday 12 August.

Field referenced the “reputational damage” caused by the lock-out laws “both in Australia and internationally”, based on feedback from artists and their international touring team.

Justin Hemmes, owner of Australian hospitality giant the Merivale Group which operates venues including RNB Fridays, Ministry of Sound, Chinese Laundry and the Beresford, has also weighed in on the issue.

Originally an advocate for the regulations, Hemmes stated the laws “must go now”, adding that the measures had become an “embarrassment” for the city and its nightlife.

The parliamentary committee will report the conclusions of the hearing to NSW premier Galdys Berejiklian in September.

 


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New late-night trading law to boost Sydney nightlife

Sydney City Council has endorsed changes to planning controls for late-night trading, extending opening hours for live music venues and allowing 24-hour trading in the city’s busiest districts.

The updated Draft Sydney Development Control Plan – Late Night Trading 2018 (Draft DCP) has been informed by a resident and business survey, in which over 10,000 people called for increased trading hours and more late-night activity.

The changes include an increase in opening hours until 2 a.m. for “low impact venues” in local centres and the introduction of an incentive system for venues to host live performances, awarding a bonus hour of trading to a venue for every night of live performance it programs.

Venues will need to apply for extra trading hours through a development application process and will be subject to trial periods to ensure they are well-managed and work in conjunction with the local community.

The council also plans to turn part of Sydney’s Alexandria industrial estate into an arts, entertainment and cultural hub.

“I hope these changes encourage the NSW Government to reconsider the lockout laws and help Sydney regain its status as one of the world’s premier late night destinations”

However, the changes will not override the controversial lockout laws imposed by the New South Wales government on many live music venues. The laws require venues, bars and nightclubs in Sydney’s central business district and Kings Cross area to lock their doors at 2 a.m. and stop serving drinks at 3.30 a.m.

“It’s time for Sydney to become a 24-hour city and we’ve now given businesses the opportunity to open around the clock,” says mayor Clover Moore.

“The City of Sydney is doing its part,” adds Moore. “I hope these changes encourage the NSW Government to reconsider the lockout laws and help Sydney regain its status as one of the world’s premier late night destinations.”

The new late-night development control plan is the result of work by mayor Moore, councillors Jess Miller and Jess Scully and the Nightlife and Creative Sector Advisory Panel.

 


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Queensland scraps plans for lock-out laws

In a move welcomed by the local music industry, the government of Queensland has abandoned plans for a 1am lock-out, opting instead for mandatory ID scanners to deter alcohol-fuelled violence.

The Australian state announced last year it was to follow neighbouring New South Wales (NSW) in introducing ‘lock-out laws’ that would see an earlier curfew imposed on venues and nightclubs. Former NSW premier Mike Baird, who resigned last month, has become a hate figure for his role as architect of the state’s lock-out laws, which critics claim have crippled the night-time economy.

Queensland’s laws were due to come into effect on 1 February, but lawmakers voted to abandon the plans in favour of mandatory ID scanners, which must be installed in all venues in ‘safe night precincts’ before 1 July.

Queensland’s music-industry development association, QMusic, describes the news as a “huge relief”.

“The lockout laws were never founded upon hard data relevant to Queensland – they were founded on a hunch”

“We are pleased that the government has listened to the music industry’s perspective on this legislation,” says QMusic executive officer Joel Edmondson.

“It’s a pity that it took a year of uncertainty before these laws were scrapped, but we thank the government for continuing discussion with QMusic and others over the last 12 months.”

Edmonson adds that the association carried out its own research on lock-out laws and failed to find any evidence they would improve public safety in the state.

“The lockout laws were never founded upon hard data relevant to Queensland,” he explains. “They were founded on a hunch. And that hunch would have damaged our great music industry.”

 


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Lock-out law architect Mike Baird steps down

Mike Baird, who as premier of New South Wales (NSW) was responsible for the introduction of Sydney’s disastrous lock-out laws, has announced his retirement.

In a statement released this morning, Baird (pictured) – nicknamed ‘Casino Mike’ by critics, in reference to his exempting Star Casino from the controversial curfew – said his six years in office have been characterised by a “rejuvenated [state] economy”, the creation of jobs “in unprecedented numbers” and an “infrastructure boom in Sydney and the regions, which everyone can see with their own eyes”.

Campaign group Keep Sydney Open, however – which last month slammed Baird for his “paltry” 30-minute extension of the curfews – says the premier’s chief legacy will be a Sydney with its “international reputation tarnished, and its vibrancy, energy and positivity diminished. Inner-city small businesses have been devastated, and crashing gate receipts for music and performance in the state of NSW threaten the future of the cultural life of the state.”

“Sydney is ready to be revitalised with smart solutions to guarantee fun, culture, economic opportunity and safety for all of us. We are ready to work with the new leader of the government to achieve this”

It continues: “Now the NSW government has an exciting opportunity before it. Sydney is ready to be revitalised with smart solutions to guarantee fun, culture, economic opportunity and safety for all of us. We are ready to work with the new leader of the government to achieve this.

“Keep Sydney Open’s role in NSW will not be ending with the political career of Mike Baird. Far from it. While the lock-outs still prevail and Sydney’s confidence [is] at an all-time low, we will fight for vibrancy, colour and the small businesses in our community against any lawmakers who unfairly target them.”

The lock-out laws, which critics claim has crippled Sydney’s night-time economy with a 1.30am (later 2am) curfew, were passed following the deaths of Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie, two 18-year-olds who became the victims of what have become known as ‘one-punch’ assaults.

 


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Baird under fire for “paltry” lock-out extension

The government of New South Wales (NSW), Australia’s most populous state, has announced it is to relax slightly Sydney’s controversial ‘lock-out laws’, extending the curfew for the city’s venues and bars half an hour, to 2am.

“Venues,” reads an announcement, “that offer genuine live entertainment, live performances or art and cultural events will be able to take part in a two-year trial of a later 2am lockout and 3.30am last drinks” under the new regulations, as recommended by the recent Independent Liquor Law Review.

NSW premier Mike Baird (pictured) says he’s confident the changes will “further enhance nightlife in the precincts without undermining the essential purpose of the laws – which is to make the CBD [central business district] and [Kings] Cross places where people can enjoy a safe night out.”

Lock-out laws, which critics claim has crippled Sydney’s night-time economy, were passed following the deaths of Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie, two 18-year-olds who became the victims of what have become known as ‘one-punch’ assaults.

In August the Supreme Court of New South Wales found against the laws, ruling the state government lacked the authority to subject to the city to the 1.30 curfew. The NSW government has appealed and has yet to implement the court judgment, with Music Feeds reporting the government has asked Sydney’s venues and strip clubs to continue operating under the existing laws, despite the ruling.

Keep Sydney Open, a coalition of venues which campaigns against the laws, criticised the “token relaxation” and said Baird “continues to show utter disregard for the negative impacts of [his] poorly designed policy”.

“A paltry 30 minutes is not enough to revive struggling businesses, to bring back the jobs lost in the night-time economy or to restore vibrancy in our live music scene,” it said in a statement this morning, “and it’s certainly not enough to get this issue off the premier’s back. […]

“If the government was serious about safety, it would remove the lock-out everywhere but the casino, the most violent venue in NSW. Instead it has done the opposite. Meanwhile, the government has not invested a cent in a public anti-violence campaign, further putting Mike Baird’s sincerity on violence in doubt. Instead, he chooses to punish millions of people for the acts of a few bad apples. The hypocrisy has to stop.

“With a little imagination from our policymakers we can have a safe, diverse, inclusive and thriving city that abounds with opportunities – cultural, economic and otherwise – for each and every resident; not the select few.”

 


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