By Andy Young

The President of the NSW Small Bar Association, Martin O’Sullivan, and Board member Charlie Lehmann have called on the state Government to have a more cohesive plan to help get Sydney’s night time economy back on its feet.

Last week the Government announced a range of measures as part of its Liquor Licensing Laws, which included extended trading hours to 2am for small bar licences and also increasing the number of patrons for small bars from 60 to 100. 

O’Sullivan and Lehmann have welcomed those changes, but have said that more needs to be done to reignite Sydney’s night time economy and called for closer consultation between the state and the stakeholders.

In a statement O’Sullivan and Lehmann said: “Since small bars were introduced in 2009, they’ve changed the culture of Sydney’s night time economy, as the Callinan review acknowledges. They’ve introduced a different type of venue to Sydney – one which focuses on the quality of great drinks, not the quantity, and on creating a sophisticated, safe and welcoming environment for patrons. 

“Sydney’s nightlife has been damaged considerably by the raft of restrictions and regulations which have been put on venues over the last few years along with the interpretation of them between stakeholders from Compliance / Police / Licensing / Council and State Government. Business has been tough for us all. While the safety of all Sydneysiders is paramount, the 40 per cent reduction in assaults quoted by Baird, has much to do with the considerable reduction in foot traffic within the lockout zone.”

The pair questioned the logic behind some of the specifics of the laws, in particular the restriction on spirit sales after midnight, and what that can mean for many small bars.

They added: “Many of the amazing new small bars that have opened since 2009 specialise in cocktails and spirits. Currently they are unable to serve neat spirits (eg. a $40 scotch on the rocks) or doubles after midnight. If a patron wants a cocktail that isn’t on an existing list, we have to refuse them. The same is true if they want a classic cocktail such as a Martini, Negroni or Old Fashioned because they contain more than 50 per cent alcohol. These restrictions serve no clear purpose in the context of a premium cocktail bar, yet create a huge burden on our business by confusing the customer. This is particularly problematic for tourists unfamiliar with the laws.

“What this city needs is a plan that is in constant consultation with stakeholders such as the NSW Small Bar Association – a plan which looks at all aspects of Sydney’s night time economy and the elements needed to support it – from transportation and crowd control, to diversity of venues and even-handed policing. It is imperative that we develop a relationship between the state government, law enforcement and key stakeholders to make Sydney late, and safe again.

“Sydney’s small bar owners want to work with the NSW Government to get Sydney’s night time economy back on its feet. However, we need to go back to the drawing board and develop an holistic plan for Sydney’s night time economy, rather than the piecemeal measures [that have been] announced.”

Speaking after the changes to New South Wales’ liquor laws were announced last week, the Executive Director of Alcohol Beverages Australia, Fergus Taylor, described the changes as a step in the right direction, but added that the changes need to go further.

The Shout Team

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

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