Clover Moore has come out swinging in an announcement that puts the City of Sydney council’s position on the government’s “one-size-fits-all” lockout laws in direct opposition to that of NSW Premier
Casino Mike Baird.
With submissions towards the review of the laws ending, Sydney’s Lord Mayor has suggested that well managed live music venues, bars, clubs and pubs should be exempt from the 1:30am lockout that encompasses the CBD, Kings Cross, and famously not #CasinoMike’s personal favourites The Star and the Baranagroo district.
Although she admits the lockout has made some areas safer, the Mayor also believes that it has a had a negative impact on Sydney’s culture and night economy, “the lockout law has hurt Sydney’s cultural life and had negative impacts on business.” she said, whilst “many people have lost their jobs”.
Moore did not hold back in her critique of the NSW State Government’s laws.
“The city spent years trying to get successive state governments to respond to a worsening situation in the Cross,” she says. “We knew what the problem was – too many venues in one area, lifetime liquor licences which 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 in Kings Cross (with an inexplicable exemption for the casino),” adds Moore. “It was a sledgehammer when what we needed was a well-researched, evidence-based, flexible response using transport, planning, licensing and police.”
Moore is advocating for typically well-behaved venues with a history of good compliance to be exempt from the 3am last drinks law. “Well managed late-trading premises are essential to our city’s cultural life and growth” she argues.
“Well-managed late-trading premises are essential to out 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. We need to get both right.”
The council’s submission is not recommending a withdrawal of all aspects of the laws however, and it is in favour of continuing the close of takeaway alcohol services ceasing at 10pm. Other recommendations include base trading hours until 2am for all small bars in New South Wales and an increase on the capacity limit for these small bars up to 120 from 60 where they currently sit.
Moore argues that the blanket lockout introduced by the state government doesn’t address the real problem of patron safety, which has stemmed from an over-saturation of venues in a small area, which has led to “venues attracting more people to an area than the venues can manage, streets full of pre-fuelled drunk people and not enough transport or police to deal with them.”
The way towards a balanced late-night economy is through having more options, says the Lord Mayor. Events like Sydney Festival and Vivid are key examples of how it can be safe on the street at night “when people have somewhere to go, something to do, and there’s adequate transport and police” and the goal is “having more options creates a safer and more balanced late-night economy, which attracts a wider range of people into the city centre, for a range of different activities – not just to get drunk. And it means the thousands of people who start or finish work late to keep our global city running 24/7 are serviced too.”
Additionally, Moore is of the opinion that part of the issue also stems from venues holding lifetime liquor licenses, and has advocated for “renewable licensing permits that could be revoked from badly run venues, like a driver’s licence”. A system such as this, she says, along with better late-night public transport will bring Sydney into line with other cities like New York and Vancouver.
“These exemptions, on a trial basis, based on evidence, and backed up by renewable licences, saturation controls and late night transport, will ensure we don’t return to the Kings Cross that was bloody and violent every weekend.”