By Danielle Bowling 

City of Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, is asking for some elements of the controversial lockout laws to be eased in order to improve the city’s nightlife while still ensuring the safety of its residents.

In its submission to the state government’s Callinan review, the City of Sydney submitted 31 recommendations, including providing exemptions from the 1.30am lockout for well managed premises and live music venues; extending train services on Friday and Saturday nights; and replacing the existing liquor license freeze with ‘saturation zones’ that consider the number of type of licensed premises in a given area.

Moore also recommends the continuation of the 10pm takeaway liquor sales restriction and the non-renewal of a venue’s license for ongoing non-compliance or representation on thestate’s violent venues list.

The recommendations, she said, encourage good venue management and support the city’s nightlife and live music industry while also protecting public safety.

“The city spent years trying to get successive state governments to respond to a worsening situation in the Cross. We knew what the problem was – too many venues in one area, lifetime liquor licences that reduce accountability, and a planning system that doesn’t recognise when an area has become saturated.

“Rather than addressing the real problems, the NSW government’s response was to introduce a blanket lockout across the city centre and Kings Cross (with an inexplicable exemption for the casino),” Moore said.

“It was a sledgehammer when what we needed was a well-researched, evidence based, flexible response using transport, planning, licensing and police.”

The lockout laws were introduced by the O’Farrell government in 2014 as a means of curbing alcohol fuelled violence.

While the restrictions have reduced violence in the region – largely because of a considerable reduction in foot traffic – a number of businesses in the area have suffered a considerable drop in profits, with many forced to close their doors.

“The lockout law has 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. It’s a significant sector – in 2013, late night activities were valued at over $17.8 billion and employed more than 30,000 people,” Moore said.

The city's recommendations include:

  • A 12 month trial exemption from the 1.30am lockout for well-managed premises and live music and performance venues
  • Reconsideration of the blanket 3am ‘last drinks’ rule, taking into account a venue’s compliance history, planning controls, and local factors
  • Continuation of the 10pm takeaway liquor sales restriction as a measure to address pre-fuelling
  • Replacing the existing liquor license freeze with new ‘saturation zone’ rules that consider the number and type of licensed premises in a given area, along with relevant crime data and transport options
  • Making base trading hours until 2am consistent for all small bars across NSW, along with an increase in their capacity limit from 60 to 120 patrons
  • Reduction or removal of the ‘trading hours loading fee’ (paid by venues considered ‘high-risk’ because they trade after midnight, are located in the CBD or Kings Cross entertainment precincts, or have a high patron capacity) for small bars and live music and performance venues
  • Non-renewal of a venue’s liquor license for ongoing non-compliance or representation on the ‘violent venues’ list
  • The extension of train services on Friday and Saturday nights until after venue closing times, to ensure people can get home quickly and safely
  • Establishment of a licensing panel, with representation from Liquor and Gaming NSW, NSW Police and the relevant local council to review and determine liquor license applications and revisions; and
  • Establishment of NSW government-led working groups focusing on the development of a sustainable night-time economy, including support for the live music sector, and late-night transport improvements.

If all recommendations were to be implemented, the city also recommends the government consider removing the 1.30am lockout for all venues.

The formal submission period for the independent review opened on 5 March and officially closed at midnight, 4 April. A total of 1,856 submissions were received.

This story first appeared in Hospitality Magazine