By JOHN MOYLE
News of the death of Kings Cross may be premature but it is certainly on life support and urgently in need of a recent City of Sydney-backed grant.
On January 14 this year, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the winding back of the lockout laws, almost six years to the day when they were first introduced in 2014.
At the time the state government estimated that the laws were costing Sydney’s night-time economy $16 billion a year.
The relaxation of the laws went into effect across the city, everywhere in fact except for Kings Cross, which was told that it had not reformed enough and would have to wait another year for the laws to be reviewed.
Devastated business owners began to seriously reconsider their options in the face of failing foot traffic and eroding economic confidence.
In November 2019 City Hub reported that there were 45 vacant shops in the area and that this number was expected to grow.
Then came the pandemic and bad quickly turned to worse.
In May, as a response to Covid-19 and the continuing deterioration of the area, the City of Sydney announced the funding of a report that would look into the impacts of the pandemic while calling for an end to the lockouts and finding a pathway forward
“It’s time to start a new chapter in Kings Cross and that’s why the City of Sydney has endorsed a $40,000 Knowledge Exchange Grant to the Committee for Sydney to talk to everyone with a stake in Kings Cross, particularly local businesses and residents, and make recommendations on how to jump-start the night-tome economy and bring domestic and international visitors back to the area,” Clover Moore, Lord Mayor, City of Sydney said.
Committee for Sydney is an independent think-tank and advocacy group for Sydney funded by its membership base, made up of public and private organisations.
The Committee’s website says that it “has enhanced debate around affordable housing” and has helped shape public transport projects such as the Barangaroo Ferry Hub and the Sydney Metro.
“We started a conversation with the City of Sydney at the beginning of the year and it came about because we have done a lot of work in the 24-hour economy over the past three years, looking at how Sydney can create a diverse and vibrant 24 hour economy. And one of the things that came out of that was a broader vision for Kings Cross,” James Hulme, Director of Advocacy, Committee for Sydney said.
“In collaboration with the City, Committee for Sydney will partner with the Kings Cross Liquor Accord and Potts Point Partnership to deliver the project,” a City of Sydney spokesperson, said.
“This came about at the end of last year when the Partnership and the Liquor Accord approached the Night-time Business team and asked if they could look at how they assist us with a quick response grant so that we could piece together a framework with the State Government so that we could remove the lockouts,” Carrington Brigham, Chairman, Potts Point Partnership said.
In his role as CEO of the Kings Cross Liquor Accord, Doug Grand has been the single constant advocate for the repeal of the lockout laws across three successive Liberal premiers.
“We have come out of a night-time economy and are transitioning towards a local economy and now something else needs to come through and create change, otherwise Darlinghurst Road will stay like it is for the next decade.” Doug Grand said.
“This project is not exclusive; it is inclusive and Council has given it 12 months and community involvement is a vital part of this.”
The research and community consultation will focus on a new vision for the area, an over-arching precinct identity, business and employment growth and a road map for advocating key reforms in the area, including the removal of the lockout laws.
James Hulme said “We are kicking off what is essentially a research project and the end results will be a report, which we hope to publish before the end of this year.”
Carrington Brigham said what the area needs is a linchpin and “one of the linchpins is the Minerva/Metro Theatre that can be looked at as a functioning 800-seat theatre that will have economic flow-on effects on Darlinghurst Road, Llankelly Place and surrounds, because it would attract people and energise other businesses in the area.”
That this proposal has not been acted on since the theatre was sold to Abacus Property Group in March 2019 is due to there being “too many politics involved,” Carrington Brigham said.
“Delivering the project will involve the consultation with the local businesses and residents together with stakeholders such as the KX Liquor Accord, the Potts Point Partnership, the AHA and the NSW Police,” Doug Grand said.
It’s still early days before the direction of the four pillars of the report are known and community consultation called for, but one thing is certain, and that is that Kings Cross is a very vocal and well informed area and they will have their say.