It’s a new dawn for Sydney’s night economy, after council unanimously endorsed sweeping changes to planning controls which should usher-in bonus hours for venues programming live music and kick-start 24-hour trading in the city centre.

On Monday night, the full council met and signed off on reforms which advocates describe as the biggest overhaul to the rules underpinning late night trading in over a decade.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore declared Sydney is now open for business, every hour of the day. “It’s time for Sydney to become a 24-hour city and we’ve now given businesses the opportunity to open around the clock,” she said in a statement issued late Monday night.

Halsey performs in Sydney
Halsey performs in Sydney

The newly-approved proposals, she added, would offer retailers more flexibility, give visitors more late-night options and “enhance our reputation on the world stage.”

It’s the culmination of a years-long effort by Moore, councillor Jess Scully, the assembled Nightlife and Creative Sector Advisory Panel and others, who saw an opportunity to pump life back into a night economy that had become something of a bad joke.

Speaking ahead of Monday night’s vote, Scully said the changes would unlock the potential of Sydney’s nightlife. “It’s a plan that sets the foundation for the next 10 years,” she told TIO.

Jess Scully
Jess Scully

Among the key changes now okayed, a 24-hour city centre, an increase in hours (until 2am) for “low impact venues” in local centres and a flexible new set of provisions to encourage performance and culture businesses, while not punishing unlicensed shops.

And there’s a boost for the music community, with the introduction of an incentive system for venues to program live entertainment and performance, where a bonus hour of trading is awarded for every night live performance, from theatre, comedy or gigs.

Businesses and venues will need to apply for extra trading hours through a development application process, notes Moore. As part of the new setup, venues will be subject to trial periods to ensure they’re “managed well and the community are consulted each step of the way.”

The sticking point that was Chippendale residents’ concerns over the impact of noise spilled out from later trading hours was resolved ahead of Monday’s session with councillors amending the Draft Development Control Plan (DCP) with an alternative boundary.

It’s a solid start, but these changes alone won’t return Sydney’s night culture to its lofty, former standing. The lockout laws remain firmly in place. “The City of Sydney is doing its part,” says Moore. “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.”

Read the full council report here.