Sydney lockout laws to be reviewed as government says it’s “never happy” to see pubs close

Sydney lockout laws to be reviewed as government says it’s “never happy” to see pubs close
Image: (Photo: Ann-Maria Calilhanna; Star Observer)

JUST days after historic Sydney venue the Flinders Hotel said lockout laws were to blame for its sudden closure, the NSW government has brought forward a review into the effects of the controversial legislation.

Once an iconic gay bar, the Flinders is one of a string of venues in the Darlinghurst district that have blamed the laws for a dramatic downturn in customers leading to either reduced hours or outright closure.

Thursday’s sudden closure of the pub led to 10 jobs losses excluding security and DJs.

However, health campaigners have called the legislation a success pointing to around 20 per cent fewer alcohol-related assaults in Sydney CBD.

A suite of new laws were introduced in February 2014, just before Mardi Gras, covering Sydney’s nightlife hotspots in the CBD, Darlinghurst, Kings Cross and parts of Surry Hills.

Alongside an increased police presence and more late night transport options, the new legislation compelled venues to bar entry after 1.30am and stop serving alcohol at 3am.

According to Fairfax Media, the office of acting Premier Troy Grant this morning announced a review of the lockout laws would be conducted in June, well before the scheduled date of 2016.

Speaking to the Star Observer, a spokesperson for the NSW Government’s Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR), said there was “early evidence that the 1.30am lockout regulation (and other measures) have helped minimise alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour risks in the central Sydney area”.

While some licensed venues had been “able to accommodate or change their business model in response to the lockout regulation,” the department said that nevertheless, “the government is never happy to see businesses close”.

The OLGR said any review would have a focus on how the laws had affected pubs and clubs.

“When we review the regulation, following more detailed research into alcohol-related crime in the Sydney CBD-Kings Cross precinct, we will include an analysis of the impacts on businesses, among other things,” the spokesperson said.

“In addition, the Sydney CBD plan of management will also be evaluated, including looking at impacts on business.”

The government has already loosened the regulations for low risk venues, such as restaurants, and suspended them completely for New Year’s Eve.

Last week, the NSW director of liquor and policing for the Australian Hotels Association, John Green, told the Star Observer: “The Flinders is not the first, and sadly, won’t be the last business to go under as a result of these restrictions.

“It’s sad to see a business that hasn’t done anything wrong pay the penalty for these lockouts.”

However, group chief executive of St Vincent’s Health Australia, Toby Hall, said the government should wait until next year to assess the lockouts.

Talking to the ABC, he said: “There’s been a significant reduction in the level of severe trauma” and it was “a clear correlation once the law was bought in and things changed very quickly and that’s been maintained today”.

“So we’d say to the government, ‘let’s get the evidence, let’s look at it on a factual basis’, but certainly at the moment it would be very, very naïve to make any changes to what is quite clearly a successful law,” he said.

Sydney state independent MP Alex Greenwich supported a review of the policy, arguing the important to get the balance right when it came to safety.

“Lockouts are an effective penalty, but their blanket introduction has had an impact on safe and well run venues that provide live music and entertainment, including gay venues on Oxford St,” he said.

“The 1.30am lockout was only one part of the government’s reforms and an independent review is important to identify which reforms are working and which ones can be amended.”

(Photo credit: Ann-Maria Calilhanna; Star Observer)

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4 responses to “Sydney lockout laws to be reviewed as government says it’s “never happy” to see pubs close”

  1. It only follows that if fewer people are attending venues in the area then fewer incidents will be appearing in the emergency rooms. Only the numbers have changed, not the behavior of patrons. So this is not a success unless the intention was to drive people from the CBD and Darlinghurst into other areas.

  2. Reading this article, there is a subjective piece of information included in this article. Which without the journalist having researched the public may be led to astray. Thank you Benedict for your honest journalism.

    I pose the question is St Vincent’s hospital lying to push their own professional agenda?

    It is no secret that nurses, doctors and hospitals are under a lot of indecent pressure. And have in the past few years received vivacious cuts. Including particularly in the term that has been led by Tony Abbott.

    Could St Vincent’s Hospital being fudging/misquoting figures to suit themselves?

    By subscribing to a different belief that alcohol related violence is down since the introduction of lockout laws is misguided and foolish. The only figures which the hospital can honestly provide are the registration of the offences that come to their triage and ED departments.

    Having needed four visits to St Vincent’s Hospital in the year 2014 due to a medical condition, I don’t know where the figures have been obtained/compared to. Having sat in triage for several hours due to wait times I had time to observe closely. There have been several instances of men and women that I have observed where violence has been a key in them needing to attend triage. Bloodied faces, knuckles, and broken bones, tears from distressed family and friends have all been common sites in my observation hours.

    I pose that St Vincent’s Hospital has deliberately altered figures or misquoted comparative figures to push the agenda of that lockout laws are effective. Using the figures of which they are the sole recorder, to support a decision in place by our government that is destructive to local business’. The figures which can not be truly verified as there is no independent record of them.

    One walking the streets in the area would know. Lockouts are not helping. The streets are rife with intoxicated steroid junkies and drunk patrons looking to squabble. As they’ve left a venue and can’t get back in. There is also a feeling amongst partygoers that there is no safe place anymore. An example is the Safe Place Project. Now that there is lockout you can’t run into a venue if you are being harassed and assaulted and ask for protection because all doors are locked and there is nowhere to run.

    So I welcome renewed assessment now of our strip. Oxford street formerly known as ‘The Golden Mile’. Because whatever the government chooses the fate of our safe place, our party, our little slice of heaven where we don’t need to fear. Is lying in their hands.