Lockouts roll back is just the first step

Sunday morning was a good one for those people associated with Sydney’s hospitality industry and night-time economy. We woke to the news that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian had indicated intentions to roll back the lockout laws in Sydney’s CBD, but they would remain in Kings Cross.

The move comes ahead of a planned report from a joint parliamentary committee into Sydney’s night-time economy which is scheduled to be published at the end of this month. The committee has received close to 800 submissions and heard from multiple and key personnel association with the night-time economy.

Both Merivale’s Justin Hemmes and Solotel’s Justine Baker were among those who spoke to the committee and detailed many of the issues their venues have faced and the revenues they have lost. It’s a story reflected across the city and points to the damning statistic of over 170 venues closing since the lockouts were introduced in 2014.

So what did the Premier have to say?

“While we will await the committee’s report, I agree it’s time to enhance Sydney’s nightlife.

“Sydney is Australia’s only global city and we need our nightlife to reflect that.

“The night time economy is a key driver of jobs in our city and we need to do everything we can to strengthen it.

“Community safety will always be a major focus for my Government, but we certainly need a balanced approach.”

I’ll leave the “Australia’s only global city” comment alone, she’s the NSW Premier and allowed that one.

Even here, the indication is that this is the start of the process of fixing things. Allowing venues to admit people after 1.30am will not be the immediate fix. The problem in Sydney is now so great that we have to talk about re-building the night-time economy, we have to take a much wider view than simply ‘Get rid of the lockouts’.

Karl Schlothauer, Chair of the Independent Bars Association and CEO of small bar group House of Pocket welcomed the move and highlighted that it is great first step for Sydney, but there is more to do.

“The Independent Bars Association welcomes the news regarding the winding back of the lockout laws, not only for its members but for night time economy as whole,” he told Bars and Clubs.

“While this great first step there is still a lot to be done to make it easier to do business at night. The IBA looks forward to the full Parliamentary review and working with various stakeholders and authorities to restore Sydney to a truly global city.”

As Michael Rodrigues, Chair of the Night Time Industries Association says, we can celebrate this win and it is a win, but let’s not stop now.

“To say the repeal of the CBD lockouts is welcomed is an understatement,” Rodrigues said.

“This is going to give parts of the city’s nightlife a unique opportunity to work with the community and the Government to rebuild a vibrant and thriving future for our night time in the city area – but the work isn’t done yet.

“The Government’s inquiry into Sydney’s night time, shed light on many issues, including the reputation damage done to Sydney as a whole, due to how downgraded our nightlife culture has become. We’re keenly looking forward to the report from this inquiry due 30 September which we expect will more fully address the suite of reforms needed to unlock the power of Sydney’s night time economy.

“There is going to need to be a lot more work done beyond lockouts to restore the perception of Sydney and put the region back on the map as a global destination.

“We look forward to this being one of many steps the Government will take to revitalise our city’s nightlife.”

There are a lot of things that do need to change, yes the spirits restrictions need to change, yes there needs to be more love for the Cross, but these all need to be framed as part of an overall plan to re-build the night-time economy.

It’s part of a wider plan to get people excited about going out in Sydney again; excited about the arts, culture and music that is on offer at night; excited about restaurants, shopping and bars and all underlined with a confidence they will be safe and that they will get home safely.

So yes, celebrate the win, flip the bird to the lockouts and say good riddance, but don’t stop. The important thing to remember here is a lockouts roll back across the CBD and Oxford Street will not automatically make Sydney great again. There are a lot of things now wrong with Sydney’s night-time economy as a whole. That’s what the joint parliamentary committee is looking into and it’s what everyone who cares about this industry must remember and keep working on.

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