The NSW Government is proposing a trial to re-think how security works for venues, especially in specific precincts, that would see fewer guards on doors, but more security guards walking the streets within precinct boundaries.
The proposal has been widely welcomed by the industry, with the caveat that this is the opportunity to assess venue security and look at further reform.
AHA NSW Director of Liquor and Policing, John Green, told Australian Hotelier: “The issue of security officers in terms of quality, quantity and roles in and around licensed venues has been an issue for some time and it’s pleasing to see the Government, and in particular the Minister, seriously considering these issues.
“This is a real opportunity to re-assess the roles security perform at licensed premises to get the best outcome for patrons, venues and staff.”
Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) CEO Mick Gibb says the changes are important, but other facets should be addressed to ensure the proposal is successful.
“Improving the experience for a patron arriving at a venue is a welcome first step. It’s encouraging to see the NSW Government take a proactive approach to addressing concerns of patrons and industry alike.
“Changing the patron experience, without compromising public safety, will require well thought out changes to the current status quo.
“An area where there is room for improvement is the training requirements security guards are required to undertake to get a security licence.
“Right now, there’s no requirement to undertake training on working with diverse communities and very little training on working collaboratively with a venue to manage safety. These are important aspects that play a big role in peoples’ experience on a night out.
“There’s no cookie cutter approach to a nightlife district and each one will have its own nuances. The location of this trial and how data is recorded will be vital to creating a framework that is malleable to suit the different types of precincts across Greater Sydney.”
Karl Schlothauer, President of the NSW Independent Bars Association, also welcomed the trial as a step in the right direction, adding that more needs to be done regarding night-time security.
“Looking at how we address night safety within a district is always welcomed, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle,” he told The Shout.
“When considering the role security plays within a district, understanding the nuances of each district, the venues and visitors within them is essential. Some venues currently don’t have security on their doors or within the premises, and I don’t foresee them wanting to change that.
“Training for security will also play a vital role and determining if the current methods are still fit for purpose. Venues with great security invest a significant amount of time ensuring that security plays more of a host role which is not currently taught. This can contribute to security feeling like a Ring-In, who does not feel part of the venue or the experience they are trying to create.
“The trail is a step in the direction and it’s encouraging to see the NSW Government take a proactive approach to addressing concerns of patrons and industry alike.”
In putting forward the proposal NSW Minister for Music and the Night-time Economy, John Graham, said he was hoping willing precincts would be able to begin trials soon, but said this would not mean the end of bouncers.
Speaking to 2GB, Graham said: “We absolutely do need bouncers and security to keep people safe, here’s a more flexible way to do it that works overseas,’ he told 2GB’s Deborah Knight.
“Often one of the bits of feedback I get is that it is quite tense on the doors of venues with quite heavy security just as you’re coming in, [so] here’s a better way to do it.”
A recent survey of young Sydneysiders by the NTIA included asking about security, which respondents often described as “intimidating and off putting to having a good night out”, something which Graham says needs to change.
“A precinct approach to security could mean less security on the door of an individual venue and more people out in the precinct and on the street giving the right guidance and making sure patrons and the public feel safe and welcomed to a good night out rather than the antagonistic and confrontational atmosphere that reigns currently,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
“I want going out at night in NSW to be as relaxed as a summer’s day at the beach or by the pool.
“Unfortunately, that is the opposite of the night-time culture that has been produced by the era of lockouts. It’s too tense, it’s not welcoming and security is too heavy-handed.”
The Government said one of the advantages of the precinct security model is that it will help reduce security and wage costs for venues, helping to operate for longer. Precincts eligible for the trial will include the 21 districts across eight different local government areas that were successful in gaining funding as part of the Uptown Grants program, announced earlier this year.