Sydney’s Oxford St has returned to its former pink glory, with the last of the gay venues removed from the controversial 2am lock-out list last Monday.
The revised lock-out list, issued by NSW Gaming and Racing minister Kevin Greene last week, featured no gay and lesbian venues.
The Stonewall Hotel was removed from all Government lists, having reduced its rate of violent incidents by 70 percent.
The Colombian Hotel and the Exchange reduced their incident rates enough to be removed from curfew requirements. They must still serve alcohol in plastic cups after midnight, stop serving alcohol 30 minutes before closing time, and have a 10-minute alcohol time-out every hour after midnight.
Stonewall licensee Craig Bell said he was pleased to be removed from the list, but did not think the lock-out policy had been responsible for reducing crime rates.
“It’s nothing to do with the lock-out policy. The biggest improvement we’ve made has been in the number of assaults occurring before 2am. In fact, as a percentage, the assaults after 2am have increased,” he told Southern Star.
Bell said changes to security staff and the reinforcement of an existing policy to stop bar and door staff from engaging in altercations had had more impact.
He described the original criteria for being put on the lock-out list — which was based on Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research figures — as “unfair”. But he was pleased by the approach now being taken, which encourages police and publicans to analyse event reports together, and provides some avenue for venues to contest.
“What they’re doing now is the massive benefit to come out of this,” Bell said. “The police and Government are to be congratulated on arriving at this point, even though their idea started off the wrong way.
“Now I think they’re taking a commonsense approach, and it’s something that should have been done from the beginning.”
A spokesman for the Colombian Hotel agreed that “it’s a fairer process now”.
“There are options for venues to challenge some data. Overall though, I don’t think it’s an effective way of dealing with the issues,” the spokesman said.
“Until more onus is put on personal responsibility, it’s going to continue to be an issue.”
The Government maintained that the policy was working.
“This is the first review of 2010 and it has resulted in significant reductions in violent incidents at pubs and clubs on the list,” Greene said in a written statement.
“It is clear this scheme is driving a significant behaviour change in venues by reducing intoxication, increasing patron safety and helping to prevent alcohol-related incidents.”