Businesses have today welcomed reports the NSW government is considering winding back the state’s widely criticised lockout laws, weeks before the release of a report into the effect they’ve had on Sydney’s night economy.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters over the weekend there was a case for scrapping much of the laws, except in nightlife hotspot Kings Cross.
“It’s time to enhance Sydney’s nightlife,” Berejiklian said in a statement circulated over the weekend.
“The night-time economy is a key driver of jobs in our city and we need to do everything we can to strengthen it.”
The lockout laws were introduced in 2014 by Liberal Premier Barry O’Farrell and prevent patrons from entering bars, pubs and clubs in Sydney’s CBD and entertainment precinct after 1.30am, as well as legislating 3am last drinks.
The rules were introduced in a bid to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence in the CBD, but have presided over the disappearance of over a hundred venues in the affected area, savaging many small business owners.
Business owners operating in Sydney’s CBD welcomed Berejiklian’s comments on Monday, saying a rollback of the restrictions would bring people back into the city.
James Bradey, owner of Liquid and Larder, a business which operates three venues within the lockout zone — Grandma’s Bar, The Wild Rover and Bistecca — tells SmartCompany he will await further detail on the plan.
“The main issue is the volume of people that just don’t come into the city,” Bradey says.
“You see it especially on a Saturday — there’s no-one in the city.”
Bradey says if the restrictions are wound back it will take time for the reputation of Sydney’s nightlife to recover.
“It’s not too little too late … but it will take a long time to recover,” he says.
Karl Schlothauer, chief executive of House of Pocket, which owns Sydney’s Stitch Bar, said a wind back would be good news for independents.
“We welcome news of a winding back,” he tells SmartCompany.
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“It’s a positive step in the right direction.”
Berejiklian’s comments preempt the forthcoming release of a state parliamentary committee report into the laws and their effect on Sydney’s economy, due before the end of September.
A Sydney council submission to that inquiry published earlier this year claimed the regulations have cost the economy $1.4 billion.
The NSW government will wait to consider the findings before making any further announcements, as a winding back of the laws would also be subject to a raft of legislative processes, including cabinet consideration.
This means no final decisions have been made yet about the future of the laws, including the manner in which they could be rolled back, with Berejiklian telling reporters yesterday there should be “better balance”.
“There’s a window of opportunity for us to relax existing lockout laws,” Berejiklian told reporters.
“We need to perhaps find a better balance.”
Berejiklian said it was her personal view that the laws should stay in place in Kings Cross, a precinct within Sydney which has historically been a hotspot for alcohol-fueled violence.
Comments about a possible wind back have been criticised by Keep Sydney Safe, a group which represents NSW emergency service workers.
As The Guardian reports, the group has said the comments are premature, given the release of the forthcoming report.
The laws were originally brought in to combat violence in Sydney’s CBD, with a coalition of emergency services workers and community groups pushing for reform in the wake of several deaths in the area.