Applause rings out in Sydney’s The Star Ballroom as one of the country’s most prominent pub landlords makes an impassioned speech condemning the city’s lockout laws.
Speaking at the Australian Hotels’ Association NSW Awards for Excellence on Tuesday night, Hotelier Bruce Solomon says what socially active Sydneysiders already know too well – that the draconian laws have effectively gutted the culture out of Kings Cross and destroyed the Emerald City as a desirable choice for overseas tourism.
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1.30am lockouts were reactively slapped into place by the NSW Liberal government last year following a moral panic over the one-punch deaths of Daniel Christie and Thomas Kelly, and although Solomon admits that incidences of violence at the Cross have dropped 40% since their introduction, that’s relative to a monumental 85% drop in people actually, you know, being there.
“…There used to be 25,000 people in the Cross at 2am on a Saturday and now there’s 3000. That’s an 85 per cent drop…” he declares (via SMH). “There’s little wonder there’s less violence out there.”
Solomon – who owns several hotels including Opera Bar, The Kings Cross Hotel and The Paddington Inn – reckons, as a result, the lockouts have basically ripped the heart right out of Sydney.
“I think when history looks at what’s happened in the Cross, I think a lot of people will think what a mistake it was that we destroyed one part of our culture; we destroyed one part of what Sydney is about,” he says.
“It’s something tourists from overseas come to Sydney, they come and scratch their heads and wonder why isn’t there a late-night precinct in Sydney? Whatever happened to Kings Cross?
“You can always go down to Melbourne, because the people of Melbourne can be trusted, the people of Melbourne are responsible, and the people of Melbourne … they can have 24-hour trading but here we can’t have it because we can’t be trusted.”
Meanwhile, the widely-loathed laws are up for review in February, but apparently the top industry figures reckon there’s buckleys of them being wiped out altogether. Instead, they’re hoping to win exemptions for certain live music venues that have no history of alcohol-fuelled violence.
“If the goal is to remove the lockouts and go back to the way we were, I don’t think that’s something that’s achievable,” John Wardle, policy director of the Live Music Office, broke to the Electronic Music Conference in Sydney, also on Tuesday (via SMH).
“This is about rewarding responsible venues that make a cultural contribution to the life of the city.”
Wardle named Goodgod Small Club, Oxford Art Factory and The Basement as examples of “innocent” live music venues which have been unfairly impacted by the lockouts. “These are really important venues that provide a lot of jobs,” he said.
Since their hasty and reactive introduction last year, everyone from punters and venue staff, to media, musicians and international celebrities to Australian politicians and US President Barack Obama (sort of) have slammed the state government’s lockouts for appeasing the majority of nanny statists who believe that decent god-fearing citizens should be in bed by sundown, while simultaneously wiping out countless venues, businesses and jobs, causing a rise in pedestrian accidents in the CBD and effectively turning Kings Cross into a zombie ghost town while pushing the violence into neighbouring suburbs.
FFS Sydney. You used to be cool.
Watch: Sticky Fingers – Ghost Town (The Specials Cover)