Surprise surprise, the Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore has branded the cities’ lockout laws as “terrible.” When your own mayor is branding the lockout situation like this, you know you’ve got a problem. With foot traffic down by a whopping 84 per cent and the demise of more than 40 nightlife venues, it’s no surprise that the Mayor is calling for a revision to the arcane laws.
The City of Sydney is suggesting a different strategy to that of the blanket lockout laws currently in place, which prohibit entry into a club after 1:30am and the sale of alcohol in said venues after 3:00am. Instead, the council is taking a middle-of-the-road approach, arguing that “safe” venues falling within Sydney’s lockout zones should be exempt from the normal restrictions.
Moore believes this approach would strike a balance between safety and keep the nightlife economy going.
“We want a civilised, 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,” said Lord Mayor Moore.
The public condemnation comes at a time when there is mounting pressure on the government to revise their laws after seemingly implausible exemptions have been to made to both Star City casino and James Packer’s new casino currently under construction in Barangaroo, as well as a number of other Sydney venues too.
Describing the lockout laws as a “sledgehammer”, Moore is arguing what every sane, rational human being in Sydney believes: a moderate strategy in place which focuses on harm minimisation instead of punitive measures which target the population in its entirety for the actions of a few.
Coward punch victims, musicians and entrepreneurs have all called for an end to the measures which were put into place in 2014 after the deaths of two coward punch victims in Kings Cross, the epicentre of the lockout war.
A submission made by the City of Sydney to the independent review of the laws will propose 31 new recommendations as a last attempt resort at resuscitating Sydney’s flagging nightlife. Under the proposed changes, special consideration would be taken into account based on the venue’s history of safety. If the venue is compliant with liquor and safety laws, then they should, theoretically, be allowed to continue to serve alcohol after 3am as no danger is posed.
Conversely, venues who continue to violate RSA requirements will have their liquor licences revoked or they will not be renewed.
Additionally, the Council wants live music venues and well-managed bars, clubs and pubs to be exempt, which is a great idea considering that these places not only add to the culture of Sydney, but form a significant source of employment and revenue for the entire inner-city area of Sydney.
This is something Moore is incredibly aware of: “It has had negative impacts on businesses, including live music venues, small bars and restaurants, and many people have lost their jobs. It’s a significant sector – in 2013, late-night activities were valued at over $17.8 billion and employed more than 30,000 people.”
Matt Barrie, the entrepreneur who wrote the damning essay, Would The Last Person In Sydney Please Turn The Lights Out?, whose words reverberated around the internet in resounding agreeance, has submitted another 70-page essay, this time, titled The Death of Sydney’s Nightlife and Economic Collapse of its Night Time Economy, claiming manipulated data and the political agenda behind the laws.
However, the proposed measures are not without their critics, with emergency workers labelling the laws as ‘irresponsible’, which is understandable considering that the paramedics and police have to pick up the pieces when things go wrong.
Scott Weber, who is the spokesman for Last Drinks, a coalition representing emergency workers, thinks that any changes to the law are putting this group lives in the firing line. “It beggars belief that our elected officials would be so willing to disregard the evidence that shows the current laws are saving lives.”
“Winding back the current alcohol-related violence laws would be a disaster and would undoubtedly put lives at risk.”
Last Drinks puts forward the old argument of the “huge decrease” in violence and assaults in the CBD since the introduction of these laws, which is by now a very defunct argument considering that there is less violence simply because there are fewer people in these areas to cause such disturbances. Lies, damn lies and statistics on behalf of the Baird government, a Fairfax investigation found.
Instead, violence is pushed into the satellite suburbs surrounding the CBD, such as Newtown. This resulted in transgender Sydney musician Stephanie MacCarthy being viciously assaulted by five men.
Even though the absurd lockout laws have met nearly universal resistance and condemnation in Sydney, they have since been introduced Queensland. They were introduced, despite us knowing that they do more harm than good.
Lockout laws suck, guys. Even with the best of intentions, they are having a negative impact on some of the most salient aspects of contemporary Australian culture, like live music.
When the Lord Mayor of Sydney’s cultural and economic centre says something is wrong, it’s time to listen.
“Well-managed late-trading premises are essential to our city’s cultural life and economic growth – and people need to feel safe, no one wants to wake up to blood and urine on their doorstep,” said Moore.
“We need to get both right.”
We couldn’t agree Moore.
Image: Daily Telegraph