The Newcastle hospitality industry has welcomed the announcement that city license conditions have been provisionally eased by the State Government for the first time in 13 years.

The new 12-month trial, set to start in September 2021, will see patron lockout and trading hour restrictions lifted for the first time in more than a decade in efforts to help support the night economy. Minister for Customer Service and Digital Victor Dominello announced with other government officials on Wednesday, March 31, the trial will allow patrons to enter venues until closing time, extend liquor trading until 3.30am including the sale of cocktails, neat spirits and shots after 10pm.

The NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA) introduced a range of licensing restrictions on 14 venues in 2008, but they gradually expanded to hinder small bars and other traders. An ILGA review in 2018 said that the main lockout conditions would remain in place, including a 1am or 1.30am patron lockout and a corresponding 2am or 2.30am closing time.

Australian Hotels Association Newcastle and Hunter President Rolly de With said the removal of the  lockouts were a testament to the hard work of Newcastle licensees and the community for more than a decade.

“This could not have come at a better time for our industry which has been struggling with the impact of COVID for a year now,” he said.

“There’s no doubt Newcastle has matured significantly in the last 13 years and we have confidence our patrons will respect this new opportunity to enjoy the same night-time freedoms enjoyed by the rest of NSW.”

According to AHA’s Newcastle and Hunter branch, the hospitality and culture of Newcastle has seen changed remarkedly since the lockouts were first implemented, and and any arguments for the restrictions no longer held any validity.

“For example, small changes like the rise of Uber have had a big impact on the ability of people to safely and quickly disperse when they leave a venue. The presence of CCTV at venues and around the city has increased. There has also been a cultural change – it’s obvious anti-social behavior will not be tolerated by hoteliers or the wider community,” de With explained.

“Our zero tolerance policy on bad behavior will continue. We support the imposing of penalties on any venue or operator who does not adhere to creating a safe and responsible venue after-dark. Current trading hours will not be extended, and it will also be at each venue’s discretion as to whether they choose to keep current entry policies in place.”

The eased restrictions on Newcastle have been announced off the back of the last lockout measures in Sydney’s Kings Cross removed in February.

“What’s good enough for Sydney is certainly good enough for Newcastle,” de With added.

“This decision gives our city the chance to really spread its wings as the COVID vaccine is rolled out and major events get underway again. Through this trial, we welcome the chance to prove Newcastle is a safe city and thank the State Government, Minister Dominello and Mark Latham MLC for giving our city the opportunity to move into the future unencumbered by archaic restrictions.”

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