City News

Fighting for your right to party

Protesters on Elizabeth St. Photo: Alex Blair

BY ALEX BLAIR

Thousands of Sydneysiders assembled on Sunday at Central Station’s Belmore Park to protest the Baird governments’ lock-out laws.

Elizabeth Street was flooded with protestors including musicians and hospitality workers, with the message that the lockout laws were hurting the local nighttime economy as well as Sydney’s culture and global reputation

Former barman Keith Spelman came out to protest after he lost his job at Five Boroughs, a snall bar in Kings Cross.

The venue fired a significant amount of staff due to the drop in revenue following the introduction of the lockout laws.

Unable to find a suitable replacement job in the neighbourhood, he is now working as a gym instructor.

“My shifts were cut back from five, to four, to three, then two shifts a week,” Keith said.

Tyson Koh, campaign manager of Keep Sydney Open, an organisation protesting the lockouts, said that Sydney’s nightlife needed to be restored to its previously thriving and exhilarating status.

The organisation, which coordinated the protest, said that Keep Sydney Open was founded by a group of people in the music industry once it became apparent that lockout laws were being considered by the government.

Mr Koh said they knew that any lockout legislation would have a negative effect on live music venues and entertainment in Sydney. As a producer for the ABC himself, Mr Koh said he believed that the lockouts’  were a product of a lack of communication between government and the community.

“Because there was no consultation between venue owners, the restaurant industry and entertainment industry, we’ve seen the negative effects. Places have closed down,” Mr Koh said.

“Places that were once world regarded restaurants and bars have gone under and that’s because people aren’t going to our entertainment precincts anymore.”

The protest seemed to resemble a music festival more than a march.

Musicians played as they marched down the streets and bands played on street corners.

One woman marching remarked that the march reminded them of the ‘good old days,’ before the lockout laws.

Colourful signs with slogans such as ‘Lockout Flaws’ and ‘It’s not my Baird time’ were some of the witty signs which accompanied protestors chanting down the street.

Jazz bands and walking drummers also made up the crowd. More enthusiastic protestors held a mock ‘funeral’ for Sydney’s live music on their march to Hyde Park where artists such as Art vs Science and Nina Las Vegas performed and made speeches about opposing lockouts.

Baird’s safety reforms have been denounced as draconian by the hospitality community who finds it baffling that their business should be compromised from a handful of isolated one-punch incidents.

Statistics show a significant drop in the amount of violence in the region, however protestors believe that the majority being punished for the acts of the minority is incredibly unfair.

Accompanying the protests at Belmore Park has been a huge social media outcry from some of Australia’s most prominent musicians, who have also sent letters to Mike Baird expressing their opinion.

Artists such as Peking Duk, Flume, Flight Facilities and The Preatures have all spoken out about the laws , and have said that it restricts their freedom, and that their careers in the music industry would not have been possible without the unregulated nightlife Sydney once had.

A study by APRA-ACMOS backed this argument after revealing that ticket sales for live music venues have dropped by 40 per cent since the induction of the lockout legislation in 2014.

Iconic venues, such as Bar Century in the city and Hugo’s Pizza in Kings Cross have all decided to close on after experiencing an unprecedented drop in business

The fact that the only places void of the lockout conundrum are the Star Casino and Packer’s proposed multi-billion dollar casino in Barangaroo was a sore spot with people at the march.

Inner-city partygoers believe that the government’s decision was too quick and short sighted.

Bryce De Boynton, 27, is one of the thousands of people fervently against the lockouts and believes that the blanket ban over nightlife needs to be reconsidered after the negative affects it has caused over the past two years.

“The government has really let down the youth in Sydney with the 1:30am lockout laws,” De Boynton said.

“They’ve had two years to look at other options used such as better policing and better CCTV by other countries to keep the freedoms and livelihood of citizens and businesses.”

Tyson from Sydney Open plans to advance their campaign strategy by targeting politicians next.

“We’re going to move more into opening up a dialogue with people in government to put forward alternative policies that we know will protect a vibrant nightlife while also having a desirable effect on safety.”

The protest was incident free. NSW Police estimate that 5000 people were in attendance. The organisers have claimed that the number is in fact 15,000.

“Some are trying to undermine our movement by describing us as a vocal minority. There’s not much to say about that except to advise that underestimating us will be to your detriment”

This is only the beginning.

 

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