Justine Baker and Solotel spent 2019 focusing on three weighty concepts: being one of the most vocal campaigners for the end of Sydney’s lockout conditions; increasing its entertainment offering and capabilities; and developing a framework that would commit the group to higher levels of inclusivity.

Lobbying for Sydney

Solotel spent a lot of time in 2019 campaigning for the repeal of the lockout laws, as a founding member of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA). Its work, and that of many other industry stakeholders, paid off, with the majority of lockout conditions repealed in mid-January.

“[It’s] a great step in the right direction for Sydney’s arts, culture and night-time industries. A long time coming, this sets the industry up for a positive and successful year in 2020,” states Baker.

“For Solotel, the key to success is a progressive relationship between industry, government and the regulators with open the lines of communication. We look forward to this continuing via the set-up of an industry advisory group which can work closely with government to ensure success.”

The lockout conditions remain in the Kings Cross precinct, where Solotel operates the Kings Cross Hotel. Despite the continued restrictions in the area, Baker remains hopeful about the situation.

“Although we are disappointed the removal of the lockouts does not extend to the Kings Cross precinct, the removal of ID scanners during the week is a positive step. Kings Cross is a different precinct than it was in 2014, and we are committed to working with the City of Sydney and the NSW Government to deliver a diverse precinct that is safe and provides for the whole community, ahead of the proposed review in 2020.”

Looking ahead, the Solotel CEO says that people cannot expect Sydney to go back to a pre-lockout environment, but instead should embrace a new Sydney late-night scene.

“I don’t believe we will ever go back to the pre-2014 environment – that’s a thing of the past. Consumer habits and behaviour has changed, it is the opportunity to create a new narrative and environment for late nights.

“I feel very positively about how the industry will evolve but Sydney did not suddenly change on January 15th either – it will be a journey for both the industry to reinvest in late night venues and activity and for consumers to change their behaviours.”


Hand in hand with its vision for Sydney without lockouts, live music and other forms of entertainment made up a key part of the group’s focus last year.

“Entertainment was a focus area for Solotel in 2019, with investment in the diversification and quality of our programming across the group as well as our sound/AV systems in our large venues such as the Sheaf, Kings Cross Hotel, Albion Hotel and the Marlborough Hotel to drive our club nights,” explains CEO Justine Baker.

The group also revamped and enlarged the bandroom, Waywards, at The Bank Hotel making it a launching pad for some of Sydney’s best up-and-coming acts every week.

Diversity matters

In the past twelve months, Solotel has also developed a Diversity and Inclusivity Commitment, with the goal to “lead the charge in the industry by creating policy that promotes gender equality, supports the modern family and our employees’ careers.”

Through an active working group, Solotel is developing programs and initiatives that change the norms within hospitality and enable further change through policy and procedure. The company hopes to ensure that its workforce reflects its customer base and community. As part of its commitment to inclusivity, Solotel has launched a parental leave policy, available to all employees, with the aim to eliminate traditional gender roles.

“This parental leave policy is supportive of modern families with shared responsibilities between parents, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity. In keeping with this vision, the objective of this parental leave policy is to retain Solotel’s incredible employees by supporting them in fulfilling careers, whilst commencing a family and returning to work in a safe and nurturing environment.”

Up next

Solotel will continue to focus on the growth of the group this year, with a mid-year launch planned for the Abercrombie Hotel on the fringes of Sydney’s CBD. The hotel’s opening is expected to be “a major part of Solotel’s plans for 2020”, and will focus on late-entertainment across all levels.

“Our aim is to create an experience for Sydney’s millennials and Gen Z’s. Entertainment and performance will be the focus, supported by a great food-and-beverage experience.”

The group is also looking at a couple of new venues, and has commenced planning renovations for the Clock, Kings Cross and Marlborough Hotels.

“One thing I can guarantee is that we won’t be sitting still.”

An abridged version of this article was originally published in Australian Hotelier’s 2020 Annual Industry Leaders Forum.

Vanessa Cavasinni

Vanessa Cavasinni is the managing editor of Australian Hotelier and Club Management, trade publications for the pub and club sectors respectively. Vanessa has been at the helm of Australian Hotelier since...

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