BY STEPHANIE TILLER
Newtown nightclubs will self-impose lockouts due to community anguish over increased violence and the area’s changing vibes.
Newtown Liquor Accord Chairman Tim Clayton said restrictions were essential to protect the character of the area and to ensure patrons would be safe coming into the summer months.
“It was just something that we thought of as the numbers increase that we could bring in to prevent any alcohol related problems or any kind of change in the area over Christmas, if it starts building up even more,” Mr Clayton told City Hub.
“The last thing that we want is for Newtown to turn into a four in the morning Cavill Avenue on schoolies week,” he said.
The lockouts will be a part of a voluntary six-month trial that will be taken up by all but one of the large late night venues in Newtown.
Measures such as no shots after midnight, ceaseing alcohol sales 30 minutes prior to closing and 3 am lockouts will be introduced from September 1.
However, concerns have been raised over whether the restrictions will effectively address the issues that have arisen in Newtown, since lockouts were introduced in Kings Cross and the CBD in January 2014.
Greens Newtown MP Jenny Leong said putting a blanket ban on people going out was not the solution to stopping alcohol-fuelled violence.
“What we’re seeing here is a failure to look at the need for a holistic approach to addressing aggro and violence on our streets, but also a failure to stand up to the issues around the big booze barn style venues,” Ms Leong said.
“We need to look at how we address the problem and the behaviour, those kind of issues, rather than just setting a random deadline of after this time this is when we’re going to take some action,” she said.
Sebastian Vijak, 24, who frequents Newtown’s late night venues, said the measures would only push people to party in places where restrictions were not in place.
“It’s a bit scary, I’ve always known that NSW was a nanny state but this is getting a bit much I think,” Mr Vijak said.
“They think they’re putting regulations on partying but people are just going to party in more unsafe and underground and weird places.”
Keep Sydney Open spokesperson Tyson Koh said venues were sensible to impose restrictions over the summer months.
“We are talking about an increase of five, six, ten fold the amount of people who are going out in Newtown now, so I think the fact that venues have come in of their own accord to try and do something about it before it gets really out of hand is a really positive thing,” Mr Koh said.
“We need to take note of the fact that these lockouts aren’t as restrictive as the ones proposed by the government, so you’re allowed pass outs and they’re from 3 am not 1.30 am,” he said.
A report released by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research in April, showed a 9% decrease in assault across the rest of NSW, after lockout laws were implemented in Kings Cross and the CBD.
Despite no reports of a significant increase in violence within Newtown, community members believe alcohol fuelled violence is increasing.
Transwoman Stephanie McCarthy, who was assaulted in June at a Newtown pub, said the increasing violence in Newtown had resulted in residents leaving the area.
“I’ve had two goth friends who were assaulted in Newtown in the last year just because of how they looked. That never would’ve happened in the old Newtown,” Ms McCarthy said.
“I know at least 25 to 30 people who are longtime Newtown residents who have moved out of the area, they’ve moved to Petersham or they’ve moved to Dulwich Hill or Marrickville or wherever, but they’ve moved away from Newtown,” she said.
Despite concerns raised by some Newtown community members, City of Sydney Independent Councillor Jenny Green, said that the new measures would be positive once introduced.
“The community’s response to what it feels is a negative result of the influx of night time revellers has been heard by the local businesses which has resulted in these self-imposed measures. I think this is a very responsible and appropriate move,” Ms Green said.
“I think it will result in a more welcoming environment for the night time visitors and it will hopefully restore the well-loved alternative nature of Newtown.”
A City of Sydney spokesperson said the council had “always reccomended an evaluation of the state’s imposed lockout laws.”
“There should be ongoing monitering of the impact of the new measures.”