Where To Celebrate The End Of Sydney's Lockout Laws
After six long years, Sydney is ‘getting its mojo back’ and the city’s nightlife is planning to celebrate big time – here’s where to go when the lockouts are lifted.
Bars and clubs across Sydney are hosting 'end of lockout' parties from Tuesday night to celebrate the abolition of rules which opponents say "devastated" the city's nightlife economy and turned it into a "ghost town".
"The lifting of the lockout laws is a huge relief for venues, businesses and anyone who wants to enjoy the city at night," Tyson Koh, of anti-lockout campaign group Keep Sydney Open, told 10 daily.
"It's a big day."
From Tuesday, licensed venues in the Sydney CBD -- including Darlinghurst, the Rocks and Surry Hills -- will no longer be forced to turn away patrons after 1.30am.
Late last year NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian spruiked the changes as "growing Sydney's night-time economy".
The changes cancel regulations that banned cocktails, shots and drinks in glass after midnight. It will also extend 'last drinks' at bars with good behaviour records.
The restrictions will remain in Kings Cross, the scene of several deadly coward punch attacks which spurred the 2014 introduction of the laws.
Since then, CBD bars and nightclubs were forced to 'lockout' patrons trying to enter after 1.30am, as well as cease alcohol service by 3am. Many venues said the lockouts led to decreased patronage and profit plunges, while countless bars and nightclubs shut down, blaming the rules.
In 2018 boss of live music venue Oxford Art Factory Mark Gerber claimed the Oxford St precinct looked "like a ghost town after midnight on weekends".
City of Sydney claimed the lockouts had "a potential opportunity cost of 2,202 jobs and $1.4 billion in turnover".
Venues have been able to apply for case-by-case exemptions to relax their regulations, with many not actually operating under the blanket laws anymore.
But the city-wide changes have been hailed as "the first steps to a city revival" by the Night-Time Industries Association.
"This is a turning point for the city and is the result of work by many across government, industry and the general public," NTIA chair Michael Rodrigues said.
"It’s the beginning of Sydney getting its mojo back."
Multiple venues citywide will mark Tuesday with celebrations.
Frankies Pizza By The Slice in the city is hosting an "emancipation party" with bands and DJs, writing on Facebook that "Sydney's late-night reputation has been reduced to a joke".
The Colombian Hotel will host a week of celebrations, announcing "Oxford Street is back", while Darlinghurst institution Stonewall Hotel says its lockouts party will "celebrate the rebirth of our amazing nightlife".
Oxford St small bar Bitter Phew is hosting an event called "Smell Ya Later, Lockouts".
Owner Aaron Edwards said he didn't expect the changes to immediately supercharge Sydney but said easing the lockouts would remove "anxiety".
"People would get worried asking for a shot, they had that fear of being kicked out," Edwards claimed.
"There was a fear of us being caught too. At 1.25am we're running around making sure things were locked up, making sure patrons were in the right area. If we let someone in at 1.31am, we'd be opening ourselves up to fines."
Edwards -- who opened Bitter Phew just three months before the lockouts began -- said he'd watched businesses along Oxford St wither and die after the changes.
"It's not just bars. It's the newsagency, takeaway shops. Some businesses saw food takings drop 20 per cent. This whole area has experienced a collapse," he claimed.
"This change won't be like flicking a switch. Oxford St won't come back to life tomorrow ... but I'm confident people will come back. It's step one."
A NSW Police spokesman told 10 daily that police "remain committed to ensuring the safety and security of the community in responding to alcohol-related crime" and would "continue to work closely with government and partner agencies, local councils, liquor accords and businesses to ensure compliance and community safety."
Keep Sydney Open, which organised massive street protests opposing the lockouts, is hosting a celebration at Surry Hills bar Harpoon Harry on Saturday with events company Picnic, to celebrate "their biggest win yet".
Picnic promoter Carly Roberts said the lockouts ending "can’t come soon enough."
"The last few years have been tough for everyone but now our city has a chance to rebuild its confidence with more people out and about," she said.
Koh, KSO's director, told 10 daily there was reason for confidence, but more work to be done.
"The biggest loss for the city was its confidence. It has a whole ripple effect," Koh said.
"The investment in the night economy dwindled. People who may have put money into music venues, theatres or late-night businesses haven't done that, and there's been a darkening of the night landscape. Now there's an opportunity to turn that around."
Koh said KSO would continue -- albeit, perhaps, under a different name -- with a widened focus on supporting nightlife more broadly, campaigning around public transport and drug policy.
"With the lockouts gone, people have freedom of choice. A whole new generation of young adults are entering the scene who can make up their own minds," he said.