The Oxford St entertainment district looks set to be free of lockout laws within months, after an announcement by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian that Sydney’s controversial lockouts will be removed everywhere but Kings Cross.
Berejiklian conceded on Sunday that it was time to boost Sydney’s nighttime economy, in the wake of a cross-party parliamentary committee review of the laws earlier this year.
“While we will await the committee’s report, I agree it’s time to enhance Sydney’s nightlife,” the premier said in a statement to AAP.
“Sydney is Australia’s only global city and we need our nightlife to reflect that.”
The premier will move to lift the lockouts in the CBD, Cockle Bay, Darlinghurst, Haymarket, Surry Hills and The Rocks – but the 1.30am lockout and 3am last drinks laws will remain in place for Kings Cross.
The current lockout laws, which many contend have decimated Sydney’s nightlife, were first introduced in January 2014 under former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell.
They were reportedly in response to the January 2014 death of teenager Daniel Christie, who was the victim of a one-punch attack while out celebrating New Year’s Eve in King’s Cross.
The random attack at 9pm was just metres from where teenager Thomas Kelly had been killed in a similar attack in 2012.
The lockouts have arguably had a catastrophic effect on the Oxford St gay strip and surrounding areas, with several venues closing or reducing their operating hours since their introduction.
Darlinghurst venue Gay Bar closed suddenly just weeks after the introduction of the lockouts, while nearby gay pub the Flinders Hotel closed in January 2015, squarely placing the blame on the lockout laws.
“It’s a dire situation,” former Flinders Hotel licensee Jason Ryan told the Star at the time.
“Most of my trade was between midnight and 5am on Friday and Saturday nights, and not being able to let people in after 1.30am and serve after 3am literally killed my business.”
The hotel reopened with reduced hours in 2017.
Iconic gay nightclub Midnight Shift scaled back its operations from seven nights to four nights a week, just two months after the lockouts were introduced.
“The new laws are unfair to venues to venues up and down Oxford St and unfair to our customers,” venue coordinator Leigh Harder told the Star in March 2014.
The Shift closed its doors for good in October 2017, although it has since been replaced with a new LGBT venue, Universal.
Berejiklian said she hoped to introduce changes to the relevant legislation by the end of the year, in time for the busy Christmas/New Year season.