Eighteen months on from the Lock Out Laws, late-night Sydney is a vastly different place. With a review of the laws looming in six months, Sydney folk are fighting to keep the city’s vibrant party scene going – and are hoping that a change is imminent.
Since the lockout laws were put in place, March 2014, party goers, promoters, bouncers and most importantly the venues have felt a hit, specifically the Flinders, Soho, Trademark, Q Bar, Hugos Lounge and the Backroom who have all have to close their doors as the laws impacted directly on their weekend trading with a landslide of poor sales.
The legislation put out by the NSW Government states, “1.30am lockouts and 3am last drinks laws are in force across the new Sydney CBD Entertainment Precinct. The new precinct stretches from parts of Surry Hills and Darlinghurst to The Rocks, and from Kings Cross to Cockle Bay. The new laws are part of the NSW Government's crackdown on drug and alcohol-fuelled violence and also include a NSW-wide ban on takeaway alcohol sales after 10pm”.
The systems in place of law enforcement are pretty serious: Liquor licenses: two year freeze on approvals for new and existing licenses. Licensee fines: of up to $11,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months, as well as strikes under the Government's Three Strikes disciplinary scheme for failure to comply with the new laws.
What were once bustling nightspots are now much comparable to a sleepy ghost town, there’s been as dispersing of revelers to the fringes of the city where the laws are in place, and generally there is a lot less positivity towards late night culture in what could and should be a vibrant and functional, 24-hour city. The laws are forcing Sydney siders to go in either two directions. Be super organized, buy alcohol ahead of time for pre-drinks and set off for a night out much earlier 9:30 rather than 11:30. Winding back the clock to ensure that they are in the desired club, bar or hotel way before the 1:30am lockout “curfew”. Or alternatively just don’t go out and that is the direction many are turning to. The hassle of heading out and feeling the disappointment when you are turned away is just not worth the fuss. Hermitage or House Parties – are becoming the way to go.
So what about the violence? NSW’s Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research’s latest research (from ambulance and police administrative data sources) reports a decline in late-night assault trends since the lockouts were implemented back in March last year. However, assaults in 2013 were at the lowest levels in a decade, suggesting a decline in violence was happening regardless of the lockout laws.
So, what are the next steps for Sydney? The perspectives are changing slowly away from the pessimistic attitudes towards the lockout laws, and more about building culture and finding new ways to engage people. The ideas are certainly there – big and small, practical and creative.
The question still remains if the system in place to enhance security and safety of party goers is for the greater good to Sydney culture and society or just penalizing everyone for the actions of the minority. Fingers are crossed that the law review in the coming months is in favour of all those who are directly effected.