Can Sydney Thrive With Lockout Laws?

Will we ever be the city that never sleeps?

What you need to know
  • Sydney lockout laws came into place in February 2014
  • The laws requires 1:30 am lockouts and 3 am last drinks at bars, pubs and clubs in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross
  • The Star casino is exempt from the lockout laws

A diverse panel of experts from Sydney's night life and creative sectors has been assembled to make sure the city not only survives but thrives after dark under the state government's  lockout laws.

The lockout laws have had a significant impact on Sydney’s live music scene, with legendary live music venues like The Basement shutting down, said Managing Director of MusicNSW Emily Collins.

"Sydney has the potential to be an incredible city, on par with New York, Amsterdam, Berlin – cities that inspire those who live in them, and those who visit,"  Collins told ten daily.

“I don’t want to live in a Sydney with empty streets at night, where people don’t come together to enjoy life and music, to connect and meet each other.'

Collins also said there is an overwhelming desire from the live music scene to keep venues open later.

"We’re told all the time that musicians and audiences, want to be out later and that they hate their nights ending early," she said.

Current lockout laws force venues in Sydney's CBD and Kings Cross to shut their doors to new customers at 1:30 am and stop serving drinks at 3 am.

While the laws were meant to curb violence, Justine Baker, CEO of the Solotel Group that owns venues including the Kings Cross Hotel and Aria, believes the laws have just pushed people out of the CBD and into the suburbs.

"The lockout laws didn’t solve anything, it just moved people to another area," she told ten daily.

Baker said pop up venues in the suburbs are growing in popularity, and remain untouched by the strict laws that several venues she manages have to abide by.

“These things are happening and they are unregulated, they don’t have any of the requirements we have like licensing and RSAs

"You can’t regulate people’s ability to have fun,” she said..

Baker said one of the first things to be affected when the lockout laws came into place was staffing cut backs.

"We had to reduce our hotel staff, the entertainment, our security, and all the people that work for our venue have been impacted," she said.

Joshua Green is the general manager of Side Bar in the city and is representing small bars on the panel.  He said his bar has adapted well by creating a trusted security team, and given that a large number of their patrons are tourists, they make communication about the laws a priority.

"I guess it is a shock for them... we manage to communicate the laws really effectively and we have a good relationship with the police from The Rocks command,"he said.

So with the desire to enjoy a night out still there, could Sydney ever become a 24/7 city?

"I could only see it being positive," Green told ten daily.

With mass housing being built in and around the Sydney CBD and the notion of working 9 to 5 no longer realistic for most Aussies, Baker believes that Sydney has the population and tourism to support a 24/7 city.

“People need places to go and work the hours they need to work … and everything seems to shut at midnight,” Baker told ten daily.

"I believe it should be Sydney’s goal," says Justine Baker of a 24/7 city.
Image: Getty

Collins agrees and says the hard work will be worth it.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, both in terms of regulation and our reputation, before we can truly call ourselves a 24-hour city but it’s not impossible."

Collins says only positives can come from Sydney CBD being open 24/7.

“It will make Sydney a better place for everyone, better regulation and planning, a thriving 24-hour economy, more jobs, happier people.”

The panel plan to meet four times a year to discuss strategies on how to inject vibrancy back into the city's nightlife. It will also advise the City of Sydney on new opportunities to help Sydney's night-time economy.

It seems the panels recommendations are starting to trickle in with several venues now allowed slightly later later lockout times and relaxed trading hours announced for venues during cultural events such as the upcoming Vivid festival.

READ MORE: Keep Sydney Open To Take Plans For '24-Hour' City To Next Election

Contact the author: ncarroll@networkten.com.au