By ALLISON HORE
The last of Sydney’s lockout laws are due to be scrapped next month, meaning the whole city will be open-for-business once again.
From March 8, the lockout will be lifted from venues in Kings Cross meaning patrons will be allowed to continue to enter pubs, bars and nightclubs in the area after 1:30am. Last drinks will also be pushed back to 3:30am and restrictions on the sale of drinks, shots, cheap cocktails and the use of glass after midnight will be lifted.
The controversial lockout laws were lifted from CBD venues in January last year, but remained in place for Kings Cross where incidents of alcohol fuelled violence sparked the laws to begin with. Now, as part of a NSW government bid to revive the area’s struggling economy- which has been hit hard by the pandemic- the Kings Cross lockout will be scrapped as well.
Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, called the move a “hug win” for “for musicians, artists, hospitality workers, business owners and many thousands who campaigned to keep Sydney open.” She said as the city recovers from the economic blow of the global pandemic Kings Cross will have an important role.
“Shortly after the lockouts were lifted in the CBD and Oxford St, the pandemic hit and sent new shockwaves through our night time economy,” she said on Twitter.
“Now, as we cautiously start to emerge from COVID-19, a diverse, exciting nightlife will be central to recovery – and Kings Cross has a vital role.”
The lockout laws were put in place in 2014 following the death of 18-year-old Thomas Kelly, who was killed in a one-punch attack on a Kings Cross street. But Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the area has changed considerably in the 7 years since that incident.
“Kings Cross has transformed considerably since these laws were introduced over six years ago,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“The precinct is now well-positioned to continue to evolve into a vibrant lifestyle and cultural destination with a diverse mix of small bars, live music venues and restaurants.”
Alex Greenwich, Independent NSW MP whose seat of Sydney includes Kings Cross, also welcomed the change.
“Global cities don’t tell people when to go to bed, they help them have a fun and safe night with a diverse night time economy and transport options to get them home,” he said.
Once the centre of Sydney’s nightlife, the lockout laws killed hundreds of small businesses in the area. Figures from Liquor & Gaming NSW in 2018 showed 418 licensed premises had closed in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross in the 4 years since the laws were introduced. The clubs, bars and restaurants that survived also had trouble attracting customers because of the restrictions, especially when the restrictions were lifted in other parts of the city.
While the lifting of the laws won’t bring much comfort to those businesses which have already closed, for those which remain it’s a sigh of relief.
“We’re confident its next chapter will be safe and lively, with a thriving residential community and a diverse economy that includes fabulous bars and restaurants, theatres and shops,” Ms. Moore said.