THE owner of one of the longest-running businesses in Sydney’s Oxford St precinct has told the Star Observer he is considering closing due to a 40 per cent drop in trade since the NSW Government’s controversial lockout laws were introduced.
The legislation has become a central issue in the LGBTI-centric electorate of Sydney in the run up to Saturday’s NSW State Election with the major candidates in disagreement about it and “lockouts saves lives” posters appearing on lampposts.
Taylor Square Newsagency owner Mark Pigott said the laws had been “catastrophic” for local traders, numbers of passers-by had plummeted and it was likely the store would close in September when the lease came up for renewal.
The business, which has been in the same family for three generations, is located just a few doors down from the popular Stonewall Hotel on Oxford St and, according toPigott, serves scores of LGBTI customers.
However Pigott said Darlinghurst was suffering to solve a violence problem primarily centred on Kings Cross.
“Instead of taking fly spray to deal with the issue they’ve taken a two-by-four to your knees,” he said.
“There’s been issues regarding Oxford St for many decades but in my livelihood of working 40 years on this street [the lockouts have] had the catastrophic effect.
“It’s no doubt been the final nail in the coffin.
“The whole street’s going to be a vacant lot.”
Pigott said many workers clocking off from a late shift, particularly from the nearby hospitals and restaurants, would come to Oxford St for a drink “with no intention of being a problem”.
“But who wants to go to a fun park when all the rollercoasters have to close and because of that Sideshow Alley – us – are also closing?” he said.
Pigott’s grandfather first opened a newspaper kiosk on Oxford St in 1932 which eventually became today’s shop, thought to be Sydney’s only 24 hour newsagent.
In January, the licensee of Darlinghurst’s Flinders Hotel, Jason Ryan, said he had closed down the pub and laid off 10 staff following a 60 per cent downturn in business due to the lockout laws.
Greens candidate for Sydney Chris Brentin said 42 businesses had shut in Kings Cross since the new laws began.
“We need to be encouraging responsible service of alcohol so we can actually pinpoint venues that aren’t acting responsibly and impose the restriction on them,” he said.
Sydney state independent MP Alex Greenwich said the 1.30am lockout should only be imposed on troublesome venues while all licensed premises state-wide should stop serving alcohol at 3am.
“Well-run venues should be able to work towards an exemption because we need to have diversity in our night life,” he said.
Greenwich claimed part of the problem laid with the former Labor Government because “they gave out 24/7 licences like it was caviar”.
The comments were rounded on by Labor candidate for Sydney Edwina Lloyd, a supporter of the lockouts, who said Greenwich was out of step with medical experts and local voters.
“Some business are not going to survive, some will be able to adapt I will work to bring some creative ideas to change business from relying on 3am booze to something else,” she said.
Liberal candidate for Sydney Patrice Pandeleos also backed the lockouts: “I wholeheartedly support the laws and the Baird Government is committed to not watering them down.”
In January the State Government said they would bring forward a review on the laws from 2016 to this June.