Sydney’s lockout laws are being rolled back after a long campaign from lobbyists at every level, but this doesn’t mean the state capital’s nightlife will return to the way it was pre-2014, according to venues in the city.
Back in July breweries discussed the unintended consequences of Sydney’s lockout laws, highlighting the indirect effect of the regulations on Sydney’s brewing industry.
A downturn in venue diversity and limited opening hours in previously popular parts of the city inevitably saw less beer being sold, not to mention an overall decline in visitors – half a million annually in the under 35 crowd according to the City of Sydney Council – affecting venues across the city and beyond.
Now, in light of the rollback which will see the 1:30am curfew laws removed, stakeholders at the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) have said “the work isn’t done yet”.
Michael Rodrigues, chair of the NTIA said that Sydney would continue to suffer from “reputational damage” and would have to rebuild after the laws “downgraded” the city’s night time economy.
Earlier this year a study by the City of Sydney found that the number of night time venues was down 7 per cent, and the percentage opening past midnight had dipped to 9 per cent.
Ben Kooyman, founder of Endeavour Brewing Co said there were other issues to consider before Sydney could return to pre-2014 levels of venue diversity and popularity.
“[The laws] came in seemingly overnight through the state government. At the time they were under pressure to be seen to act.
“Unfortunately Australian drinking culture isn’t the best in terms of responsibility and respect for others, so I agree they needed to act, but without consultation with any stakeholder, they pushed through new legislation which hurt a lot of businesses.”
He said that instead of removing the problem, they instead pushed it to other areas, and even though the laws are being rolled back, curfew will still apply to the Kings Cross area, historically a problem district.
“There’s evidence suggesting they’ve created other harmful drinking issues in other areas. It spread the problem – it was contained before and potentially manageable in the one area.”
Janet Learcy, co-founder of the Redoak Boutique Beer Cafe with brother and brewer David Hollyoak, told Brews News that the changes will help rebuild Sydney and provide an economic and social boost.
“Over the years the licensees of the city have come together on many occasions with the authorities for open discussions and planning. People’s safety and community safety has and always will be of high priority to us all,” she said.
“It’s a classic case where a blanket rule was made for everybody when in fact it was only a handful of operators that needed correction.
“The period has done nothing to help the good operators, like my own business, who have taken pride in always running a reputable business and following all authority rules and requirements.
“So we are looking forward to working with the new guidelines to help showcase the city can be a fun, cultural and safe environment.”
But the lockout law rollback is just another piece of the puzzle when it comes to reinvigorating Sydney’s nightlife, and the light rail project undertaken by the city has been another point of contention.
“The light rail system is late by a ridiculous amount of time. It all started in 2016, it was supposed to be finished last year and now it won’t be finished until next year,” explained Ben Kooyman.
“We thought the stops down near us at The Rocks would aid mobility, but so far it’s created a Berlin Wall in the city – you have to get around these barricades and cross before you can move easily through it.”
While there are other issues that may need addressing, the lockout law rollback is a positive step in the right direction, Kooyman said.
“For Endeavour Tap Rooms, we see this as a great move, as hopefully more people will now reconsider the city for a responsible extended night out, rather than avoid the city all together knowing that they would have had to continue their night elsewhere after hours.”