Sydney's Live Music Community Welcomes Reforms to Lockout Laws: 'It's a Great Start'

Sydney, Australia
Prasit photo/Getty Images

Sydney, Australia

Sydney’s lockout laws are about to be dumped. 

With effect from Jan. 14, 2020, the much-derided regulations will be scrapped, paving the way for bars, clubs and live venues to serve alcohol after 3.30am, a move advocates say should help to reinvigorate the city’s once-vibrant nightlight.  

“It's big news for Sydney,” notes MusicNSW, which had lobbied government to wind back the rules which critics -- including many professionals in the live entertainment industry -- say was crippling the night economy. 

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) also welcomed the NSW government’s about-face on the lockouts, and its proposed raft of reforms. “It’s a great start,” says Michael Rodrigues, chair of the trade body.

“Turning Sydney’s night life back on, isn’t as simple as flicking a switch – we’ll be taking our time to ensure the industry does its part to get Sydney back on track in a considered way – and we in particular welcome the establishment of an Industry Advisory Group where we hope to be able to play a part in bringing a range of night time voices to help shape the future of Sydney’s night life,” Rodrigues added.

The laws were activated in 2014 by then NSW premier Mike Baird following a pair of deaths in Kings Cross, a colorful central Sydney suburb once dotted with bars, live venues and strip clubs. 

The NSW government responded with a series of policies aimed at reducing bouts of alcohol-related violence: after 1:30, no one was allowed to enter or reenter a club, last call for drinks was 3 a.m., and stores could no longer sell alcohol after 10 p.m. In addition, the government froze all applications for new liquor licenses for a two-year period, though these restrictions were later relaxed.

The lockout laws were studied by a NSW Parliament Joint Select Committee on Sydney's Night Time Economy earlier in the year. According to its findings, the committee recommended that the lockouts be abandoned in the CBD, with the exception of Kings Cross.

State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the controversial 1.30am last entry in the city center would be a thing of the past, though the rules will remain in place for Kings Cross, with the potential for a review within 12 months.

"We did not take this decision lightly," Berejiklian told reporters Thursday.

The lockouts had been massively unpopular with the music community and the Sydney city council since day one. The likes of Alison Wonderland, Flight Facilities, The Preatures and Lord Mayor Clover Moore argued the rules were harming Sydney's cultural life and reputation. Others took a less diplomatic tone. Sydney's nightlife had become an international joke, thanks to the lockouts. 

In its submission to the parliamentary committee, city council said 500,000 fewer under-35s were visiting Sydney each year, due to the laws, and that the number of venues dedicated to live music had been cut by half in those five years. MusicNSW conducted a survey of 225 Sydney musicians and reported 85% of respondents said their music careers were impacted by the lockouts.



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