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Sydney's Lord Mayor Criticizes City's 'Sledgehammer' Lockout Laws

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Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore has joined the chorus of disapproval for the city’s “blanket” lockout laws, which restrict the sale of alcohol and limit entrances into clubs past a certain hour.

Moore has likened the rules as a “sledgehammer” which failed to address the well-publicized alcohol-related problems they were intended to tackle. It’s an opinion that places Moore at loggerheads with Mike Baird, the New South Wales Premier who spearheaded the controversial regulation. 

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The City of Sydney has made 31 recommendations in its submission for the New South Wales Government's Liquor Law Review into the two-year-old laws, including a call for venues to be rewarded for compliance by allowing them to trade beyond 3:00am.

“Rather than addressing the real problems, the New South Wales government’s response was to introduce a blanket lockout across the city center and in Kings Cross (with an inexplicable exemption for the casino). It was a sledgehammer when what we needed was a well-researched, evidence-based, flexible response using transport, planning, licensing and police,” she writes in an opinion piece published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The lockout laws have “hurt Sydney's cultural life and had negative impacts on businesses, including live music venues, small bars and restaurants, and many people have lost their jobs,” she adds. 

And well-managed late-trading premises, she noted, “are essential to our city’s cultural life and economic growth.”

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The laws were implemented early in 2014 following a pair of deaths in Kings Cross, a district with a long-held reputation for being either vibrant or seedy, depending on your personal taste. The NSW government responded with a series of policies aimed at reducing bouts of alcohol-related violence: after 1:30, no one is allowed to enter or reenter a club, last call for drinks is at 3 a.m., and stores can’t sell alcohol after 10 p.m. In addition, the government froze all applications for new liquor licenses for a two-year period.

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Not surprisingly, the laws have been wildly unpopular with the music community. The likes of Alison Wonderland, Flight Facilities and The Preatures have taken to social media to criticize the rules, arguing they are ruining the city’s live scene and wiping out opportunities for artists.  

Deputy Premier Troy Grant last week opened the first of three roundtable discussions as part of the independent review. Former High Court judge Ian Callinan is due to deliver his report this August.

“We want a civilized, safe, late-night economy with different options for people of all ages to go out and enjoy themselves after dark, without the blood-soaked, drunken punch-ups on the street,” concludes Lord Mayor Clover Moore. “In other words, it's time we all grew up.”

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