Keep Sydney Open To Take Plans For '24-Hour' City To Next Election

"The basic question of what kind of city we want to live in gets lost in an election cycle."

What you need to know
  • Keep Sydney Open, the grassroots movement created in 2014 to protest controversial lockout laws in NSW, has registered as a political party
  • It will contest seats in both houses of Parliament at the next state election
  • Key issues of public transport, planning and a wind back of the state's lockouts will be the party's focus

Keep Sydney Open is hoping to make its case for a "24-hour city" heard when it takes key issues of public transport, planning and a windback of lockout laws to the next state election.

The grassroots community group, created by Tyson Koh to protest the lockout legislation introduced by the Baird NSW government in 2014, registered as a political party on Monday.

It will contest seats in both houses of NSW Parliament.

“Our whole campaign has been a grassroots movements and that’s not going to change,” Koh told ten daily.

Thousands of supporters gathered in Sydney's CBD in February 2016. Source: AAP

The party will focus mainly on bolstering the city's 'night-time economy' -- bars, music venues, restaurants and nightlife culture -- through changes to  transport, law enforcement, public health, the arts and planning. 

"We want the people of Sydney -- and also others across the state -- to think about what kind of city they want to live in and where our government falls short." 

The movement gained some political traction and large public support for its campaign to restore Sydney’s nightlife, following negative effects on nightlife culture of lockout laws that were introduced to curb alcohol-related violence.

Thousands joined protests in inner Sydney, attending festivals such as Meet Me in The Cross that were set up to reinvigorate affected precincts.

The legislation has gradually and slowly been scaled back, with the state government last week announcing the lifting of a freeze on new liquor licenses in Kings Cross and the CBD for new live music and arts venues.

Keep Sydney Open spokesman Tyson Koh. Source: AAP

But as key industry representatives outlined at a recent public parliamentary inquiry, many existing venues have been forced to close, leaving little room for musicians to make a living.

According to reported figures from Liquor & Gaming NSW, 418 licensed premises had closed in the CBD and Kings Cross since 2014.

John Graham, a Labor member of the parliamentary inquiry, said there had been a net loss of 176 venues since the introduction of the laws. 

In Queensland, laws have been reduced to the use of ID scanners in safe night precincts such as Fortitude Valley, after the state government abandoned a 1:00am lockout.

Victoria has so far resisted attempts for a similar lockout after a failed trial of a 2:00am policy back in 2008, with government figures saying it would destroy the cultural and economic fabric of the Melbourne.

"We’ll be pushing for the lockout laws gone at the next election." 

"But our confidence is so shot that it will take a lot more than that to reinvigorate nightlife around the city," Koh said. 

"We need to explore other ways to boost the sector.”

While details on policies will be unveiled closer to the election, Koh said a 24-hour public transport network and changes to planning laws will be looked at.

“I think it’s a big failure of politics to ignore what experts have to say, so we’ll be spending the next few months talking to planning and cultural experts -- both here and overseas,” he said.

The announcement follows a six-month campaign that saw the group gain a membership “in the thousands” -- well over the 750 members required by the NSW Electoral Commission to form a political party.

Koh said the party is open to conversations with "any party that aligns with what our followers want us to achieve”.

Featured image: Getty Images