Odd Culture CEO James Thorpe said the entertainment precinct has been busier since the late-night trial began. Image: Duke of Enmore/Facebook.

Liquor & Gaming NSW has begun a three-month trial with a handful of venues within the Enmore Rd Special Entertainment Precinct (SEP), allowing them to extend trading by half an hour if they host live music throughout the night.

Liquor & Gaming NSW has teamed with Inner West Council to run the trial which aims to support live music and further promote Enmore Road as a thriving entertainment and cultural precinct. Eight venues are participating in the trial:

  • Duke of Enmore Hotel
  • Jacoby’s Tiki Bar
  • Secret Garden Bar
  • The Midnight Special
  • Bar Planet
  • Hopsters Cooperative Brewery
  • Little Lagos
  • Enmore Hotel

“The NSW Government is pleased to support this trial which will see venues in the Enmore Rd precinct that offer live music and other entertainment, able to stay open an extra 30 minutes,” stated Minister for Hospitality and Racing Kevin Anderson.

“Liquor & Gaming NSW has partnered with the council to extend liquor trading for participating venues, ensuring patrons can indulge in their favourite tipple as they enjoy listening to a live band or singer later into the night.”

The trial began on 1 September, and will run until 30 November. James Thorpe, CEO of Odd Culture, which owns and operates the Duke of Enmore, says the trial is going well and is increasing the traffic in the SEP.

“It’s going really well. Our head office is above The Duke so we spend a lot of time in the area, and there’s just heaps more people around. Even on days when there isn’t a show on at The Enmore Theatre – which when there is a show on, that’s the crowning glory of Enmore Rd, everything’s buzzing. But even when there’s not, it’s been busy.

“Two nights ago [Tuesday night] there wasn’t a show on but it was so busy. Everyone’s around, going out to restaurants, going to watch a band at The Duke or HiWay. It’s marked as a bit more of a destination area.”

The increased traffic to the area has allowed The Duke to put on even more live music, with the pub increasing from a four-day roster of live acts to five- or six-day rosters in the last month.

The trial has also helped venues who haven’t previously put on live music acts, to add to their offering.

Jacoby’s Tiki Bar is a small cocktail bar with a capacity for 60 patrons. The venue is able to trade until 2am on Friday and Saturday nights and midnight on weeknights. 

Licensee Pasan Wijensena says he plans to offer acts such as DJs, small bands and potentially comedians as part of the trial. 

“We haven’t had live entertainment previously so we thought this would be a good opportunity to introduce it and assess the response from our patrons.”

“Our business has bounced back strongly from the pandemic and we are fortunate to be part of the Enmore Road precinct which is really thriving.” 

A collaborative effort

While an extra 30 minutes may not seem like much, Thorpe says that it’s indicative of a change in the relationship between licensed venues and various authorities in New South Wales. Where in past years there was more of a punitive attitude, there’s more collaboration and support now for the industry.

“It’s a good start, is what I would say. Getting council and state planning in a way that advocates for venues has been like drawing water out of a rock over the last ten years. With the lockout laws and everything that’s happened since then, the tide is changing certainly, and this is evidence of that,”  stated Thorpe.

“We take the wins where we can get them. Thirty minutes sounds like nothing, but we’ll take it and we’ll show the authorities that Enmore Rd can responsibly trade for half an hour longer than it does currently, and then maybe we’ll get an hour.”

Minister Anderson echoed Thorpe’s sentiments, stating the Government’s wish to support the late-night economy.

“We want to see the NSW night-time economy grow while ensuring it’s diverse, safe and inclusive. A strong, vibrant live music scene is critical to a strong, vibrant night-time economy.”

The team at The Duke also met with the police earlier this week, who expressed how happy they’ve been with how the trial is going, patron behaviour and venue compliance.

Broader changes

Special entertainment precincts are part of a new pilot program with input from the Department of Planning, Hospitality and Racing, Office of Local Government, Office of the 24-Hour Commissioner and NSW Police.

“All live music and performance venues are eligible for an 80 per cent discount on their annual liquor licence fees, under the 24-hour economy reforms, providing thousands of dollars in savings,” stated Anderson.

The announcement builds on a series of recent changes made to the planning system to boost entertainment and live music across New South Wales, from extending alfresco dining measure and grants, and allowing businesses to host performances without additional approval.

One of the big changes to the SEP is the handling of noise complaints. In NSW there are several bodies that can adjudicate noise complaints, including local council, the police, Liquor & Gaming NSW and the Department of Industry.

As part of the SEP changes, only the local council can handle noise complaints, and instead of complaints being able to be made anonymously, the compulsory first step for complainants is to meet with the venue operators to see if it can be dealt with to the satisfaction of both parties.

“We are committed to giving the hospitality industry greater certainty to recharge the economy and lift community spirits,” stated Minister for Planning and Minister for Homes Anthony Roberts.

While the late-night music trial will run to 30 November, Thorpe and his team hope it will be made permanent as all stakeholders show that the late-night scene can be enjoyed responsibly.

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