By John Moyle
This week Sydney music lovers were rocked when Sydney’s iconic venue The Basement closed it doors after 45 years of operation.
A week earlier, in Kings Cross, a new jazz club barely made it to 45 minutes of existence as police and council harassment caused it to close on its second night of operation.
Venue manager for Prohibition jazz club Paul Jospeh said police threatened to bust them as they were setting up for a night’s trading.
Mr Jospeh says three men approached the doorman about coming into the club just for a look, which they did.
Once inside they threw off their cloaks of anonymity declaring that they were licensing police
“Owner and licensee of Prohibition, Mr Ian Chandler, was approached by the licensing police and informed that he may be in breach of the law for not scanning them in and that he was liable for a $11,000 fine,” Mr Jospeh said.
But there was more.
Later that night a couple of City of Sydney rangers approached Mr Chandler outside the club and threatened him with a $6,000 fine if he breached a zero tolerance noise level.
Fearing for instant penury if they were busted for any the aforementioned breaches, the club decided to close, putting 40 musicians booked for the week out of work along with three staff and a security guard.
A recent report by independent think tank Committee for Sydney is a wake-up call for all government agencies, businesses and policy makers to take Sydney into the 21st century as a 24 hour precinct or risk becoming a second tier city in a world increasingly turning on the lights and staying open.
The report Sydney as a 24 Hour City examines issues relevant to Sydney as a 24 hour precinct such as transport, retail operations, hours for public spaces, lighting and a more open and supportive policy for music venues, small bars and clubs.
As Sydney joins other 24 hour precincts around the world benefits to Sydney could see an increased annual turnover of $30 billion and create up to 100,000 new jobs.
“The Committee for Sydney’s report identified serious concerns with the lock out laws’ impacts on Sydney nightlife,” Alex Greenwich, independent MP for Sydney said.
“If Sydney is going to be a global city, we need to remove the 1.30am lockout for small bars and well managed venues.”
Sydney as a 24 Hour City builds on significant work done by councils, state government, universities and campaigning organisations such as Keep Sydney Open.
“What we’ve sought to do is develop a strategic approach for Greater Sydney, involving participants from public, private and civic sectors,” spokesperson, Committee for Sydney said.
One of the early studies done on a 24 hour economy for Sydney was the OPEN Sydney report by City of Sydney back in 2012.
“The City is a long term supporter of the night-time economy and its contribution to our city’s vibrant community and the broader economy,” spokesperson, City of Sydney said.
However one giant shadow looms large across the implementation of any attempts to make Sydney a global city: Barry O’Farrell and Mike Baird’s infamous lockout laws that were introduced in 2014 as a knee jerk reaction to alcohol fuelled assaults.
The governments of the day also refused to address issues of their own making such as lack of public transport and putting a brake on the number of liquor licenses issued in areas with already large numbers of venues.
“It is clear whether you are talking about the Liberal government or the Labor opposition that they have done nothing about the lock out laws, while the impacts on the community have been significant,” Jenny Leong, Greens MP Newtown said.
“We need an approach to licensing laws that don’t punish the whole of the community and shut down our night life.”
Tyson Koh is a spokesman for the Keep Sydney Open movement that has been vocal about the lockout laws affecting central Sydney.
“A lot of people have failed to understand how the lockouts have been so damaging to businesses in the inner city and Kings Cross,” Koh said.
“This is not a level playing field as people can still go out later in the inner west or parts of the eastern suburbs, or go to the Casino.”
Koh added that there was another issue affecting night life in Sydney and that was the attitudes of the police and government.
“I see this as part of a broader war on culture that the police and parts of the NSW Government are engaging in and that is very concerning.