What Sydney's First Night Without Lockout Laws Looked Like
It was a small but dedicated band of revellers who were on hand to usher in the new era of nightlife in Sydney, as the city's lockout laws lifted after six years.
Clubs across the CBD hosted parties to welcome the new no-lockouts era on Tuesday, though most Sydneysiders decided to take it easy on a school night.
Despite extensive media coverage, only a few ventured into the city to mark the first night without lockouts with a celebratory drink.
The NSW government intentionally changed the controversial laws on a weeknight, picking a quiet night to give businesses time to adjust.
And not even a tide of events in Sydney's biggest party strips -- variously titled 'smell ya later lockouts', 'reignite the night' or 'unlocked' -- could tempt most to swap their quiet Tuesday plans for a night on the town.
Even if it was the first opportunity in nearly six years to enter a CBD club at 1.31 am, be served a beer in a schooner made of real glass, or successfully order a late-night shot.
"There's not that much open," Oxford Street partygoer Charlotte admitted.
10 daily wandered Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, the Rocks and Circular Quay on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning -- the first since the 2014 lockout laws were lifted -- but found barely a trickle more people than would usually be out on a regular midweek evening.
Charlotte was out with friends, bar-hopping around the city to mark the end of the lockouts and -- at 19 years of age -- her first ever night in Sydney without the prospect of being shut out of a club at 1.30am.
"I can finally experience the nightlife our parents talk about," she said excitedly.
Charlotte might have to wait until the weekend for a proper taste of an unlocked Sydney, with even the bustling Oxford Street precinct barely a whisper louder than usual overnight. Despite half a dozen large venues throwing open their doors on the busy strip, no lines were seen outside clubs.
There were more passing pedestrians than partiers.
A tiny queue quietly formed in front of the iconic Stonewall Hotel, before patrons were quickly ushered inside. Down at Circular Quay, there were more seagulls than people, with many bars closed or planning to shut their doors before 1am.
In the city, the liveliest joint was Frankie's Pizza. Young adults and suited businessmen alike were spotted wandering through the doors with no delay.
The laws remain in place Kings Cross, the scene of deadly coward punch that spurred the lockouts in 2014.
"Tonight is more about saying ‘thanks’, and we’re back to where we should have been probably six years ago," Aaron Edwards, licensee at Oxford Street small bar Bitter Phew, told 10 daily.
Edwards never expected a huge turnout for the low-key celebration BBQ his venue hosted to mark the end of the lockouts, attended by friends and loyal regulars, but said this coming weekend would be the true test of how Sydney responds to the changes.
Citywide, Tuesday was a stark reminder it would take time for Sydney's nightlife reputation to be reignited -- that, as Edwards said, it "won't be like flicking a switch", or as Night-Time Industries Association chair Michael Rodrigues said, just "the beginning of Sydney getting its mojo back."
"We made it. There's obviously a lot of businesses that didn't and a lot of people that unfortunately didn't make it," Edwards said of the low-key entry into the city's new era.
"It's kind of like an end to a grieving process."
Down at the Hollywood Hotel in Surry Hills, things were a little more lively. The small venue hosted a celebration attended by Keep Sydney Open campaigners.
A huge banner bearing the group's iconic black-and-white logo -- so often splashed on massive flags at large anti-lockout protest marches, or on t-shirts that can still be seen around NSW -- peered down from a little stage, where revellers loudly yelled along to 'Jessie's Girl' blasting from the stereo.
10 daily arrived just in time to see the bar's owner scratching a NSW government "no entry after 1.30am" sticker off the door, the first night in six years the publican hasn't needed it on the front of his venue.
There we found Tyson Koh, KSO's director, enjoying the fruits of his labour -- the first lockout-free night since 'Happy' by Pharrell Williams topped the ARIA charts.
"A lot of Sydneysiders haven't really been able to talk up their city with a straight face," he said of the last few years.
"It's been difficult for people to say 'Sydney's the best city in the world', which is what we said around the Olympics 20 years ago."
Charlie, out on Oxford Street, had an even blunter assessment.
"All my mates in Melbourne that come here, they're like ‘f**k, how do you even go out here?’" he told 10 daily.
"Every time you have a night out here, you go one place and that's pretty much it. It's 1am and you're like 'f**k it, that's it'."
Koh said he thought the lifting of the lockouts could mean Sydney's "best days" might still be ahead -- predicting the rise of "something different and potentially better" than what the city had in 2014.
But the most optimistic note of the night was struck by Henry and Ronan. Aged in their mid-20s, they've never before had a Sydney night out without lockouts in force, and they were excited.
"I'm excited for the change... it's taken long enough," Ronan said.
"It's about time we finally experienced something good," Henry added with a smile.
"The opportunities are endless. It's the beginning now. This is the time we've all been waiting for."