By ALLISON HORE
The City of Sydney council voted unanimously to approve a plan which would allow shops and businesses in the city to stay open until 10pm, without needing further approval.
Under a suite of changes aimed to revitalise the city’s struggling economy, existing shops and businesses in the City of Sydney local government area will be allowed to extend their opening hours from 7am to 10pm, seven days per week, without further development consent.
Other reforms laid out in the proposal include allowing “minimal impact” cultural uses of existing office, business, retail and community facility buildings without development consent and establishing new planning controls specifically for cultural and creative uses. Erskineville Town Hall will also be opened up for entertainment and leisure purposes such as theatre, cinema, music and dance.
Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore hopes the reforms will help reignite the city’s struggling 24-hour post-COVID and post-lockout economy.
“It is so important that we make and maintain space for artists in our cities,” she said.
“By removing red tape we are making it easier for small businesses to open later, put on small-scale cultural events and set up maker spaces in the heart of our villages.”
A late night lifeline
In February 2021 data from the Australian Bureau of statistics revealed COVID-19 restrictions significantly impacted business for 80 percent of accommodation and food services and 70 percent of the arts and recreation industry.
And with the federal government’s JobKeeper payments ending, things are not expected to get a lot better. Federal Treasury officials advised they expect up to 150,000 people to lose their jobs once JobKeeper ends. These losses are most likely to come from small to medium sized businesses operating in the tourism, hospitality and arts and entertainment sectors.
But the City of Sydney hopes the changes will give these sectors a much needed boost by making it easier for alternative venues to hold cultural events. Ms. Moore said it would be an opportunity for the city to reinvent its nightlife and increase its standing as an international city.
“We are creating a city where locals and visitors alike can stumble onto diverse and exciting cultural activity in unexpected locations all around Sydney,” the Lord Mayor said.
“This groundbreaking policy work to bolster our night time economy and support creative industries has been in development for some time, but will now help us to support our creative-led recovery from COVID-19.”
Similar changes doing away with development applications for alternative venues like office spaces to be used for cultural and entertainment purposes have also been passed by the Inner West Council. Ms. Moore said the two councils were working together to roll out the reforms.
The City of Sydney’s reforms came after extensive consultation with the business community as well as research and consultation which has been ongoing since 2015.