By Emily Contador-Kelsall
As Sydney’s nightlife continues to move out of the CBD, its controversial lockout laws received a lift last week after the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) revealed a significant drop in violence across the CBD and Kings Cross area.
While BOCSAR has cemented the positive impacts of the laws on reducing violence, lockout laws continue to hit late-night venues and businesses in the CBD hard, seemingly pushing the night-scene into residential areas.
Tim Crowe, CFO of the W. Short Hotel Group said it was “more than likely” the group would buy outside the lockout area when they invest in new businesses. The W. Short Hotel Group owns several inner-city venues including SCUBAR at Central, The Australian Heritage Hotel and The Glenmore at the Rocks.
Mr Crowe said the group had seen a “little bit of a drop-off [in] general weekend trade if we do a Saturday comparison from before lockout times to now”, and said this could be due to people not coming into the city at all to go out at night.
“We’ve also got another small business down in Central railway called SCUBAR and that is a three AM close so that has been directly affected by the lockout laws and it’s probably down 25 to 30 percent,” he said.
Recently, late-night venues have been gaining patronage in suburban areas outside the lockout zone like Erskineville, Coogee, Bondi and Double Bay.
Despite this move of late-night venues, BOCSAR also reported a decrease in assaults in nightspots further away from Kings Cross and the CBD including Newtown, Double Bay and Coogee.
Highlighting this shift out of the city is Sydney hotel giant Merivale Group’s most recent purchase. The group bought the Queen Victoria Hotel in the inner west suburb of Enmore. The hotel will be handed over the Merivale officially on April 27.
Erskineville’s Imperial Hotel has also attracted a new night scene since the introduction of the lockout laws. Spice Cellar, an underground club formerly in the CBD, relocated to the hotel and had their first weekend in the new venue last week.
Darren Jenkins, President of residents group Friends of Erskineville (FOE), said he thought there had been an increase in patronage of local pubs and clubs in Newtown and Erskineville, noting the Imperial Hotel as a venue that had done “particularly well with additional patronage”.
Mr Jenkins said the FOE had received some reports of increased noise in the area but he was not worried that the added late nightlife would greatly compromise the neighbourhood and community.
“[We have heard about] the effects of more people visiting the Imperial and visiting nearby so there might be people coming home from those places and leaving those places, there’s been noise at night,” he said.
“I don’t think we’re going to see any increase in violent behaviour or seriously anti-social behaviour because of the nature of the venues. In and around Kings Cross, they’re different types of venues than the smaller clubs and bars that there are around the inner west.”
Kings Cross residents are happy with the change the lockout laws have brought to the area as violence and noise have decreased. Independent City of Sydney councillor Jenny Green is a long-time resident of Kings Cross and said she witnessed firsthand the impacts of alcohol-fuelled violence prior to the laws.
“My local community no longer experiences the large, drunk and often violent crowds that previously gathered,” she said.
Like Mr Jenkins, Mr Crowe could not see a late night scene like that Kings Cross was once notorious for appearing somewhere else in Sydney.
“I don’t really think the nightlife in Sydney is going to die but the very late trade and the high concentration of entertainment locations such as Kings Cross or in the city, I don’t think we’ll see that again,” he said,
“Those suburban areas they go to don’t have the size or the number of venues that have late trading to be able to support massive numbers… so I don’t think it’s going to get like it was…ever again. I think they’ll be small pockets like in Erskineville, Double Bay, Bondi, Surrey Hills, and Newtown”.
Despite this, Mr Jenkins also felt there needed to be a response from businesses to ensure they “stay good neighbours” including plans to address issues like additional rubbish and transport in “managing the increased numbers”.
The Star Casino, which is also exempt from the lockout laws, has seen an increase in assaults in and around the casino according to the BOCSAR report.