Sydney open for business on the eve of lockout law repeal


It cited analysis provided by Deloitte Access Economics that as a result of the laws Sydney may have been forgoing $16 billion in potential activity.

This week pubs and bars across Sydney will host parties marking the end of the lockout laws.

“Unlocked,” read the poster of one event hosted by the Keep Sydney Open at Harpoon Harry in Surry Hills. “See ya never lockouts [sic].”

Another party being held on Friday night at The Vault in the CBD advertised “tunes and shots well after midnight.”

It will be music to the ears of many who have turned up in their thousands to protest rallys since 2014, decrying the laws for killing the night-time economy.

While for many venue operators the repeal symbolises a change in the “narrative” of Sydney, a city now ready to flourish.

“Sydney’s narrative can go from being locked and closed for business … to a city where an arts and entertainment scene can once again flourish and where people can enjoy themselves responsibly,” Mr Haines said.

He said the past five years had seen a major shift in Sydney’s after-dark scene, which was unlikely to return to “the way it was” in 2014.

“In retrospect I see them now as a circuit-breaker. The laws had many negative economic impacts on the city, but undeniably there were decreases in alcohol-related crime,” he said.

He added the industry had been forced to adapt in responding to younger generations who had never known a Sydney “pre-lockout” by way of increased premium food and beverage offerings.

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But while the city’s hospitality traders are largely pleased to see a return to late-night trading, for some it comes with a bitter taste.

“I think everyone is very happy, but there is also no one in the industry stupid enough to think this is a silver bullet for the problem with the city’s nightlife,” said Jake Smyth, co-founder of the Mary’s Hospitality group.

“It’s been our job to keep the city open throughout.”

He said repealing the laws was “a giant and soft admission of a huge mistake,” and said the government had failed to communicate with industry.

“I was hoping we might have a really adult discussion in the lead-up to the repeal … that the government might have actually sat down with stakeholders,” Mr Smyth said. “I’m very hesitant to get too ahead of myself … there is a lot of hard work ahead for us.”

At the Stonewall Hotel on Oxford Street co-owner Craig Bell said the 22-year-old venue would be celebrating the return of Sydney’s “freedom” with an event on Tuesday, but questioned what had really changed since 2014.

As a former police officer he recalls on-the-street policing that regularly removed high-risk people “very efficiently.”

“For whatever reason politically the police force has gone away from that… so we have more people on the street, just being told to move on,” he said.

Mr Bell said he had observed the change over 15 years, prompting venue operators in the Oxford St precinct to start their own “Binge Alert” WhatsApp channel.

There are around 80 participants in the social media thread, including door staff, licensees and security staff, who can alert each other about a problem person or someone they have refused entry.

A protest rally against Sydney's lockout laws.

A protest rally against Sydney’s lockout laws.Credit:Peter Rae

Mr Bell said he was well prepared for the first weekend without the laws in place.

“We’ve got a very good system in place. But that’s no thanks to police policy,” he said.

Keep Sydney Open spokesman Stephan Gyory said a lot of people were happy about the repeal “but quite sceptical because the underlying problems in Sydney and NSW aren’t changing.”

“It seems once again the government is putting the entire onus on managing nightlife on one tiny sector of one industry – they’ve jumped the gun a little bit,” he said.

This weekend Sydneysiders can expect a “visible police presence” on city streets while St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst is expecting a rise in alcohol-related injuries.

A NSW Police spokesman said police were “committed to ensuring the safety and security of the community,” working closely with government and partner agencies.

Mr Gyory said he did not expect to see much change to the city’s after-dark foot traffic on the first weekend of the laws being repealed.

“People don’t go out as much. So no, I don’t think a million people are going to flood the city and have a riot on Saturday night,” he said.



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