Image: Oxford Art Factory / Facebook

Sydney Venues Ruled Exempt From Lockout Laws Told To Keep Them Anyway

The New South Wales Government has told a number of Sydney music venues and strip clubs to keep operating under the city’s controversial lockout laws, even though they were recently ruled exempt.

Last week, 15 Sydney venues were unshackled from the 1.30am lockout and 3am last drinks curfew in a landmark Supreme Court decision, and the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) has since confirmed to Music Feeds that the Government has asked these venues to continue upholding both laws, even though they legally don’t have to.

A spokesperson for OLGR says “Most of the relevant venues have indicated they will continue to observe the laws”.

The notable exception to this is The Smoking Panda Bar — the venue that brought the fight against the lockout laws to the Supreme Court in the first place — which has officially announced it will start trading well past the 3am curfew.

“We no longer have a lockout and we will be trading from Wednesday through till Saturday 4pm-5am,” the venue posted on Facebook following the decision. However, the bar’s operators have refused to comment on the matter any further.

The Smoking Panda is the only venue to have spoken out about how the Supreme Court’s decision is set to impact its trade going forward, with OLGR’s spokesperson confirming to Music Feeds that the Government has also “asked” other affected venues not to speak publicly about the matter.

One Sydney venue operator, who has requested to remain anonymous, alleges that some of the newly exempt establishments are too afraid to speak out and too afraid to ditch the lockouts, for fear of OLGR “making their lives very difficult”.

OLGR has declined to comment on these allegations, but has pointed out that any venues who feel as if they’ve been treated unfairly are free to lodge a complaint.

The only live music venue that OLGR has confirmed as being on the list of exempt venues is the Oxford Art Factory (after its name was leaked to the public by Fairfax), but OAF’s operators have refused to comment on the matter, as per the Government’s request.

As for the other 14 venues impacted by the Supreme Court’s decision, their names have been withheld from the public by the Government in the wake of its appeal against the ruling, which was launched with breakneck speed on the same day that the Court’s decision was handed down.

The ruling has led to 15 venues becoming legally exempt from the 1:30am lockout, with eight of those 15 also being ruled exempt from the 3am alcohol curfew (the decision only affects venues with a theatre license, or hotels with more than 20 rooms).

A Sydney venue operator also alleges to Music Feeds that OLGR and licensing police have been “coming down hard” on any venue that expresses solidarity with the anti-lockouts movement Keep Sydney Open.

“Since Keep Sydney Open launched there’s been more scrutiny to venues that have been openly supportive,” the venue operator says, explaining that he’s personally incurred the wrath of licensing police after posting a pro-Keep Sydney Open status on Facebook.

“Since then there’s been a huge increase in venue patrols. We went from no inspections to inspections every Friday and Saturday night. And every time, they found absolutely nothing.

“There’s politics and strings being pulled in the background and businesses have everything to lose. The licensing police have made me feel threatened with regard to our ability to trade despite being a very responsible venue. They are relentless.

“They treat us like we’re the problem when we should be working together to achieve a solution.”

Most Sydney live music venues that exist inside the city’s so-called ‘party precinct’ — including but not limited to Frankie’s Pizza By The Slice, Brighton Up Bar, Plan B Small Club, The Basement and The World Bar — have not been affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling, and will continue to operate under the lockouts. It also seems as if Oxford Art Factory, despite being ruled exempt, will continue to uphold the laws as well.

Meanwhile, the results of the Callinan Review into the effectiveness of Sydney’s lockout laws have been delayed by two weeks in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling, and are now set to be handed down on 13th September.

Business leader Matt Barrie, who previously accused the Baird government of conspiring with the gambling lobby to funnel more customers into the lockout-exempt casino has levelled more claims of corruption against the liberal leadership for their handling of the lockouts in his widely-shared Callinan Review submission.

The state government has also been accused by the Bureau Of Statistics of manipulating data to support its pro-lockout agenda, while its own figures demonstrate that alcohol-related assaults have increased at the casino since the laws were introduced.

You can stay up to date with all of the latest news and updates on this matter via our dedicated Lockout Laws Feed.

Report by Emmy Mack. Edited by Tom Williams.

Gallery: The Best Signs From The Keep Sydney Open Rally (October 2016)

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