By Andy Young

The Hon. Ian Callinan AC, has released his review of, and recommendations for, the Sydney lockout laws and New South Wales bottleshop restrictions.

The comprehensive review has looked at the impact of the legislation, which was introduced in 2014 and the former High Court judge has listened to many expert opinions from those both in favour of removing the laws, and those who support them.

The 150-page review considers many aspects of the amendments to the NSW Liquor Act including the economic, social, criminal and health effects of the legislation. Callinan has made some recommendations within his report, which has now been submitted to the NSW Government for consideration. The Government will now review the report and is expected to announce its actions before the end of the year.

In his report Callinan refers to the 2014 changes as the ‘Amendments’ and the areas they were imposed on, namely the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross, as the ‘Precincts’.

In the lead up to his conclusions Callinan highlighted his many findings and referred to many of the over 1800 submissions he received. He wrote: “In all of the circumstances I have formed the view that licensees carrying on business, entertainers and other employees of licensed premises and some satellite businesses such as fast food vendors forming part of the night time economy in Kings Cross and the CBD have adversely affected financially, but it is possible that, to some extent, others elsewhere have benefited because of the dispersal of people, and their discretionary expenditures, to other areas not subject to the Amendments.”

His findings also said: “I am satisfied that the operation of the Amendments has had an adverse economic effect on a large number of licensees in the Precincts in various ways.

“The people possibly and most directly adversely affected fall into several principal categories: the owners of licensed premises; licensees; wholesalers of food and liquor; employees, musicians and satellite business operators such as fast food vendors. 

“Live entertainers have suffered. Entertainers cover a wide spectrum. They range from those who do no more than play recorded music with little or no commentary, in the form in which others have created it, to those who mix, make transitions between tracks and use turntables, compact cassettes, digital devices and software to do so with skill and musicality, to a live performer or performers, singing covers or original compositions, and of course bands. 

“Not all entertainers have been affected. Many live entertainers, actors, singers, bands, conductors, orchestras, and others who perform in venues at which liquor is not sold or its sale is not a priority, or who ordinarily complete their performances by 1.30am at night are not affected. Nor are those who customarily perform at, for example, licensed clubs and other places. 

“I have asked those who have lost money or opportunity as a result of the Amendments whether it might be possible to stem their losses by reprogramming live entertainment by, for example, sessions of it earlier, and perhaps condensing some sessions. Some hoteliers told me that they have certainly attempted to do this, but that their efforts had not been successful. I am not satisfied that further, perhaps earlier, and well thought out reprogramming could not be done.”

In terms of the 1.30am lock out and 3am last drinks, Callinan has suggested that a small extension of 30 minutes on each of these times be introduced for live entertainment venues, and that the impact of this change be monitored for two years.

He wrote: “Staged relaxation of aspects of the Amendments could be considered. For a trial period of two years, genuine entertainment venues in the Precincts might be permitted to open to enable entry to those parts only of those venues offering live entertainment to the capacity of those parts only until 2am, and to serve alcohol in those parts until 3.30am so long as live entertainment is being generally continuously offered throughout the evening until then. Satisfaction of conditions relating to the provision of genuine live entertainment should be the province of ILGA. 

“A relaxation of the Amendments to this effect may go some way to an orderly restoration of vibrancy and employment opportunities in the Precincts. It needs to be understood again however that such a relaxation carries the risk of greater density and consumption of more alcohol in the Precincts. It needs also to be understood that relaxing the Amendments, even in this way, involves risk.”

Callinan also looked into the impact and merits of the mandatory closure of all bottleshops in NSW at 10pm and recommended that this time be changed to 11pm and the delivery of alcohol be allowed until midnight. 

He wrote: “The sale of takeaway alcohol, whether before or after 10pm, makes little or no contribution to violence and anti-social behaviour in the Precincts, even less so when it is home delivered. Extension of the hours of sale of takeaway alcohol at licensed premises could be extended to 11pm, and of home delivered liquor to midnight. In some regional areas hotels do make a contribution to the social life of the district by sponsoring sport and other community activities. In some places hotels are the only venues for night time entertainment.”

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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