The NSW Government’s Joint Select Committee on Sydney’s Night Time Economy has published its report, which makes several recommendations to change the current laws and bring some vibrancy back into late-night Sydney.

The recommendations include appointing an overarching coordinator to bring together all relevant stakeholders to enhance Sydney’s night time economy. The report recommends this should be done by “a central agency of government under the direction of a minister”.

In addition the Committee has recommended changes to a number of measures which were introduced in Sydney in 2014. These changes are recommended for the Sydney CBD area while the laws should remain in place in Kings Cross, with both aspects being subject to a review in 12 months.

The report recommends the following be removed from the Sydney CBD precinct, including Oxford Street:

  • 1.30am lockout
  • prohibition on service of certain drinks after midnight, including: shots, drinks containing more than 50 per cent spirits or liqueur, ready to drink beverages with an alcohol by volume content of more than five per cent
  • cocktails and drinks prepared on premises containing 30 ml or more of spirits or liqueur
  • restriction of glass in the late trading period, and
  • the 3.00am cessation of service.

Additionally the report recommends that the trading hours for the sale of takeaway alcohol be extended to midnight Monday through to Saturday, and 11pm on Sunday.

Encouragingly the Committee also recommended looking at a number of measures that would bring vibrancy to the city, which are not based around alcohol.

The report said: “The Committee found that increasing the diversity of activities, particularly those not centred around alcohol, can encourage a variety of people to engage with Sydney after dark. In turn, this will support a safe and exciting city.

“Measures discussed in the report to promote diversity include: supporting our cultural institutions to provide more late night offerings; encouraging more venues for music and creative events; innovative ways to use vacant and occupied spaces; making small bars a more attractive licensed venue business model.

“The Committee recommends easing the regulatory burden in the Sydney CBD to further support and enhance the night-time economy.”

Groups across the industry and who have helped drive the approach of looking at the whole of Sydney’s night time economy have largely welcomed the recommendations from the Committee.

Chair of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), Michael Rodrigues, said: “This extensive report recognises the range of measures NSW needs to take if it is to rebuild the night time economy, and return vibrancy to Sydney.

“If NSW is to reclaim up to $16bn annually from the night time economy, the appointment of a minister is an essential piece of the puzzle. The NTIA have campaigned for over a year for this appointment, and we look forward to the government confirming who this will be.

“The report leaves me optimistic about the future. It reflects increasing consensus about what needs to be done, who should do it, and the measures that need to be in place to ensure city vibrancy, whilst maintaining public safety.

“The Committee recognises that the lockout has caused brand damage to Sydney. In order for it to be gone entirely it’s up to industry to demonstrate to government and the public at large that Sydney’s nightlife can be rebuilt as one that is diverse and inclusive, with activities that are not solely dependent on the consumption of alcohol.” said Rodrigues.

Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore said: “This is an excellent result and an exciting moment for Sydney’s nightlife. Repealing lockouts in the CBD and Oxford Street is an important first step that will breathe oxygen into Sydney’s nightlife.

“I am proud to have stood with the musicians, artists, hospitality workers and business owners most affected by the lockouts, and the many thousands of Sydneysiders who want to keep Sydney open – the news that lockouts will soon be a thing of the past is music to our ears.

“Close collaboration between the State Government, the City and everyone involved in our night time economy should be an integral part of fixing the damage done by the lockouts and rebuilding a nightlife that is both exciting and safe,” the Lord Mayor said.

The Australian Hotels Association NSW also welcomed the report, with Director of Liquor and Policing John Green, saying: “Today’s report contains a range of common-sense recommendations which is reflective of extensive consultation by the Committee – which its members should be acknowledged for.

“AHA NSW is currently going through the report, however, at the outset we welcome several recommendations which, if implemented, will assist in enhancing Sydney’s nightlife. These include removing the 1.30am lockout in the Sydney CBD, identifying well-run venues and the return of takeaway sales of alcohol to midnight.”

The report has also made a number of recommendations which should make it easier for Sydney’s small bar scene to further flourish and be a key part of the city’s revival. These include removing some of the licence restrictions and generally easing the regulatory burden to make it easier for small bar venues to operate.

Having had the lockouts in place for five years the Committee is now looking to move quickly recommending that the new Night Time Coordinator work with Liquor and Gaming NSW to advise the relevant Minister within 60 days on matters including the development of the night time economy strategy, small bar licensing, relaxed conditions for well-behaved venues, the ability to transfer licences, new arts venues and small and medium sized music venues.

The Committee regularly points to reviewing both the Sydney CBD changes and the impact of no changes on Kings Cross in 12 months. Further it has said that if these lockout reforms are successful, the NSW Government should give consideration to a review of Newcastle liquor licensing conditions and working with Newcastle City Council to rejuvenate the night-time economy and its economic importance for the Hunter Valley.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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