All live music venues and good operators of well-managed clubs and bars should be rewarded with exemption from Sydney’s lockout laws under new proposals announced Monday by Lord Mayor Clover Moore.
Moore, an outspoken critic of the 1.30am lockout rules, rolled out in 2014 by former NSW premier Mike Baird, is behind a new submission to NSW’s liquor regulators which calls for favourable treatment to predominantly music and performance venues, and other licensed sites that contribute to a vibrant nightlife.
In its submission, the City also pitched reduced licence fees, the scrapping of a blanket ban on new liquor licences, a more robust last-night transport infrastructure, and sweeping changes to the approvals setup for licensed premises.
It’s the latest sign that central Sydney’s miserable night blight could, eventually, come to an end. In the past, Moore has slammed the policies as a “sledgehammer blow” to the city’s business and culture, and she hasn’t shifted position.
“We are working with our community of passionate and creative people who run Sydney’s night-time businesses to create an environment where well-managed venues can thrive – but we need the State Government to get on board,” Moore said in a statement issued Monday morning.
“We all want a civilised, safe late-night economy with different options for people of all ages to go out and enjoy themselves after dark, but the lockouts were a sledgehammer blow when what we needed was a well-researched, evidence-based and flexible response using transport, planning, licensing and police.
The lockouts, she added, “came at the expense of Sydney’s global reputation, tourism and hospitality industry.”
Moore has led a fightback of sorts, by convening a panel of 16 nightlife and creative sector experts, charged with reporting back with advice on how to rebuilt the night culture and, last year, she pitched Agent of Change framework, developed from a suite of efforts explored in the City’s OPEN Sydney strategy and action plan and inspired by developments elsewhere. Later this year, she will speak at the second-annual “Global Cities After Dark” forum, alongside a cadre of international nightlife professionals.
Following its latest submission to a Liquor and Gaming NSW review of the state’s liquor laws, Moore noted: “We knew what the problem was – too many venues in one area, not enough public transport late at night, lifetime liquor licences that reduce accountability of venues, and a planning system that doesn’t recognise when an area has become saturated.”
Also, she urges regulators to recognize that well-managed late-trading premises are “essential to our city’s cultural life and economic growth” and that people need to feel safe, one of the cornerstones of Baird’s controversial laws, which include a 1.30am lockout on inner city venues and a cease-service from 3am.
Venue operators and advocates say they’ve been unfairly punished by the regulations and a string of artists, from Alison Wonderland, Flight Facilities, The Preatures and many others have criticized the rules, which they say are killing the city’s live scene and wiping out opportunities for creators.
“We need to get both right – it’s not a question of one or the other,” adds Moore. “I am calling on the state government to use the liquor regulations to encourage live music and entertainment venues – which is already one of the objectives of the Liquor Act.”
For more information, visit CityOfSydney.nsw.gov.au.