The 2 to 5am lock-out system has been described as chaotic by patrons after its first Saturday night in action, but police say it’s been a success.

The lock-out, whereby certain clubs and pubs can’t admit more patrons between the designated times, was introduced by the NSW Government to curb alcohol-related violence and affects four Oxford St gay venues -” Arq, Stonewall, Phoenix and the Oxford Hotel.

But two weeks after the system’s introduction, patrons and licensees are doubtful about its effectiveness, saying it forces people into the street.

Regular clubgoer Will Thompson said Oxford St was a nightmare on early Sunday morning as patrons scrambled to get into clubs and bars just before the lock-out began.

We were at Stonewall until about twenty to two and I wanted to go to Arq because I didn’t want to stay at Stonewall the whole night. But when we went up there the line was massive -” I haven’t seen a line like that since Mardi Gras, he told Sydney Star Observer.

Thompson and his friends eventually found out the club’s security guards were only letting in people with stamps. In the end they gave up. [W]e went back to Stonewall before two because we thought -˜we’re not going to get in anywhere’ but when we went back to Stonewall they weren’t letting anyone in there either!

The 2 am period was a nightmare on Oxford Street, according to Thompson, with hordes of frustrated patrons stuck on the street. The street itself was so busy because there were so many people being locked out -” even before 2 o’clock.

It was ridiculous and so many people were drunk or whatever and they were all out on the street at 2am whereas normally they’d be in clubs.

The mood inside clubs was also affected by the lock-out, according to DJ Nick Jay. Jay usually works on Sunday mornings but had last week off and decided to check out the new system.

I was at Arq from 12 to 3, he said. I think people aren’t as comfortable -” there’s drink restrictions and police wandering in the club. I think people feel controlled and like they’re being watched.
Jay said the club was full by a quarter to two, causing screaming matches between patrons and security guards.

Arq owner Shadd Danesi said he was now advising his patrons to come to the club early to have a better chance of being admitted. He said the lock-out had led to very long lines outside Arq on Saturday night, but he praised the behaviour of patrons.

There was no violence outside Arq. Needless to say there was a large crowd we had to turn away, he said. Both Danesi and Jay said that some patrons seemed unaware that the lock-out was starting last weekend.

Danesi said the new system had been difficult to deal with but the business was working hard to comply with the new laws. He’s not sure if he’ll have to employ more security guards to deal with the consequences of the lock-out. …[I]t’s a learning curve, we’ll be watching it very carefully and see what we have to do.

Surry Hills Police Commander Donna Adney said the first weekend of the lock-out had been successful. The patrons handled it well, the venues handled it well so at this early stage I would say it’s looking quite positive.

Adney said she had not received any reports about increased crowds on the street despite more police being deployed to the area on Saturday night. I don’t think there were any more people out than normal and it wasn’t a worse situation than we normally face.

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