City Hub

Caught in crossfire: community victims of lock

BY LYDIA WATSON MOORE

‘We are the unintended victims who will not stand by any longer’.

This is the resounding message of the growing movement against the Sydney CBD’s controversial lock out laws.

Following Premier Mike Baird’s comments last week on social media supporting the laws, Sydneysiders have lashed back in their thousands, with many claiming the laws have destroyed Sydney’s nightlife.

Through social media, lobby groups such as Keep Sydney Open have seen a recent swell of support for their campaign against the tight alcohol and venue laws, introduced in 2014.

Campaign manager of Keep Sydney Open, Tyson Koh, told City Hub this new wave of rejection to government policy showed the public was ‘ready to have a balanced debate about the lock outs’.

“There’s a lot of disdain in the community about the damage that these laws have done. They aren’t really a proper solution to violence on our streets,” Mr Koh said.

Former owner of Potts Point restaurant Jimmy Liks, Justin Maloney, told City Hub that the government had put the whole community in the cross fire.

Mr Maloney was forced to close his award-winning restaurant in December last year after 12 years of service, due to a decline in foot traffic.

“The thing the government’s not getting is that it’s just not about people who sell booze for a living, it’s about the whole community, who have been devastated up there,” Mr Maloney said.

Mr Maloney said he had seen many other local businesses forced under due to decreased revenue.

“The little mesh of fantastic bars and restaurants that were up in Kings Cross and Potts Point had a very, very fast downturn in trade. Then they just all started going broke,” he said.

While Bar Century became another casualty to the laws this week, victims are found not only in the hospitality sector.

Burlesque performer and photographer Billy Bullseye Texas told City Hub that many entertainment promoters are giving up and performers cannot afford photography due to declining business.

He said he had witnessed the decline in Sydney’s late night culture since the lock out introduction, which had reduced his capacity to make a living.

“It saddens me to see this decline as well as worries me to think how I can maintain a career doing the things I love,” Mr Texas said.

He said that the people who just wanted to go out and dance were being punished, “as if they were the ones committing the acts of violence”.

Mr Texas’ passion for dance has inspired him to hold an ‘Footloose angry dance’ in reaction against the laws.

He told City Hub that his protest, set for February 22, is a move away from the typical ‘negative’ protests. He will focus on morale boosting and giving a platform for Sydneysiders who love to dance.

Keep Sydney Open are also planning a large protest rally for the day before, February 21, which will feature speakers from musical giants The Preatures and Hoodoo Gurus and a performance from Art vs Science.

Reclaim the Streets Sydney, a group infamous for its musical protests against the ‘nanny state’, plan to keep the momentum of the backlash going into March.

The group has planned a protest festival for March 19, with scores of musical acts spanning across 11 stages.

A spokesperson for Reclaim the Streets told City Hub that while the protest could not overcome “the amount of money and power that’s against” them, it would bolster campaign momentum.

“What a protest can do is energise the movement, keep the issue in the spotlight and most importantly, create friendships between people who are willing to do the hard work and fight this long term,” the spokesperson said.

While many within the Sydney music community are gearing up to physically protest, the government has now called on people for their written commentary.

Deputy Premier Troy Grant announced on February 11 that an independent review will be conducted into the 1:30am lock out, 3am last drinks and 10pm restriction on take away liquor sales.

The inquiry is encouraging people to submit feedback about the laws to liquorlawreview@justice.nsw.gov.au.

Mr Koh told City Hub he “genuinely hoped” the review would be “comprehensive and listen to all sides of the debate”.

“We are running out of time because a lot of the venues which have survived so fare have indicated to us that they’re under a lot of financial stress,” he said.

“We’re on the verge of losing a handful of fantastic venues right now.”