Is The 24-Hour Sydney Plan The Beginning Of The End For Lockout Laws?
After five years of declining nightlife and a disappearing entertainment sector, Sydney is set to get a 24-hour city centre.
Following a unanimous vote by councilors, City of Sydney's Late Night Trading passed at its monthly council meeting on Monday night.
The changes will allow businesses in the city centre to apply for 24-hour trading, while low-impact food and drink venues on major high streets, including Crown Street and Glebe Point Road, will be able to stay open until 2 am.
A new cultural precinct for Alexandria was given the go-ahead in an effort to boost live music in the city, while late-night trading areas in fast-growing neighborhoods such as Barangaroo and the Green Square precinct is also part of the plan.
After the plans passed council, Lord Mayor Clover Moore threw down the gauntlet to Premier Gladys Berejikilian.
“It’s time for Sydney to become a 24-hour city, and we’ve now given businesses the opportunity to open around the clock,” Moore said in a statement.
"The City of Sydney is doing its part. I hope these changes encourage the NSW Government to reconsider the lockout laws and help Sydney regain its status as one of the world's premier late-night destinations."
According to the Lord Mayor, the plan is in response to feedback from more than 10,000 people who said they wanted a diverse and exciting night-time economy, not a city that is "unsafe or that shuts down as soon as the sun goes down".
Sydney's lockout laws were introduced in 2014 in response to a spate of alcohol-fueled violence in the city.
It means patrons are no longer able to enter venues after 1:30 am and alcohol is not permitted to be sold after 3 am in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross. The laws do not apply to the Star Casino.
The Late Night Trading plan will not override these laws.
In a statement to AAP, a spokesman for Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said it often wasn't the State's laws which prevented venues from trading later at night, but rather the council's "own restrictions".
"The NSW Government supports a vibrant and diverse nightlife for Sydney and welcomes initiatives that contribute to this," the spokesman said.
"The City of Sydney has already stated that their plans for 24-hour trading would be subject to the lockout and last drinks measures that apply to certain licensed venues in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross precincts."
While the new regulations "aren't a silver bullet by any means", Keep Sydney Open spokesperson Joseph O'Donoghue said the initiative is absolutely a step in the right direction.
"We think it's great," he told 10 daily.
"I think the good thing is that we're seeing a real tipping point around the lockouts, especially in public sentiment... the new regulations apply pressure on Gladys Berejiklian to step up and remove these suffocating laws."
The effectiveness of the lockout laws has been a contentious subject since their inception.
In November, a parliamentary committee found the laws have put the city's live music scene in "crisis". It heard evidence the laws were a "sledgehammer" to Sydney's nightlife and put "the nail in the coffin" of the contemporary live music scene.
Keep Sydney Open, which ran for the upper house in the last NSW election, has been at the forefront of a fight to "resurrect Sydney" as a 24-hour global city -- and it's not alone in the battle.
The NSW Young Liberals -- of which Gladys Berejiklian is a former president -- is calling on its own party to roll back the laws which it says are "stifling free enterprise" and are an "affront to individual responsibility". The group has set up a petition in a bid to send a message to its grown-up counterpart.
O'Donoghue said when and if the State Government turns on the lockout laws, it's the beginning of another massive and delicate effort to bring the city back to life.
"Obviously we have five years of damage and it would take Sydney a long time to rebuild to the status that it was," he said.
"The lockout laws are just the first step to getting there, and once they go we need to sit down as a culture, as a state political party and also the Sydney City, and start looking at innovative cultural ways to rebuild our brand, reinvigorate the night time economy.
"What the Sydney City [Council] is basically giving us is some nice tools for businesses to start using."
The Late Night Trading changes will come into effect in June.