Sydney lockout laws
The Sydney lockout laws were introduced by the Government of New South Wales in February 2014 with the objective to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence. The legislation requires 1.30am lockouts and 3am last drinks at bars, pubs and clubs in the Sydney CBD entertainment precinct. The precinct, defined in regulations, is bounded by Kings Cross, Darlinghurst, Cockle Bay, The Rocks and Haymarket.
While data shows that alcohol-related violence has decreased, concerns have been raised about the impact of the law on Sydney's nighttime economy.
In 2016 the law was subject to an independent review, conducted by Ian Callinan. In response, the NSW Government announced it would relax the last drinks and lockout laws by half an hour for live entertainment venues in a two-year trial.
- 1 Context
- 2 Legislation
- 3 Impact
- 4 Support for the lockout laws
- 5 Opposition to the lockout laws
- 6 Callinan review
- 7 References
Teenager Daniel Christie died in January 2014, the victim of a one-hit punch. He had been out celebrating New Year's Eve in Kings Cross. His assault, a random attack at 9pm, was just metres from the site where teenager Thomas Kelly had been fatally punched in July 2012.
Christie's family called upon politicians to set laws that would help to stop alcohol-related violence. Within weeks of Christie's death, the O'Farrell ministry met to discuss a new package of measures to address community concerns on the issue.
Barry O'Farrell announced his Government's plan for the new lockout laws on 21 January 2014. The Government introduced the Liquor Amendment Bill 2014 to parliament on 31 January 2014, to amend the Liquor Act 2007 and the Liquor Regulations 2008. The Bill would give the minister a regulation-making power to declare areas as prescribed precincts and impose conditions on licensed premises within those precincts. The regulations defined the new 'CBD entertainment precinct' as the region bounded by Kings Cross, Darlinghurst, Cockle Bay, The Rocks and Haymarket, including parts of Surry Hills. The Government also increased maximum prison sentences and introduced new mandatory minimums for various drug-fuelled violent offences.
Within the CBD entertainment precinct
The regulations exempt venues within the defined CBD entertainment precinct that have poker machines installed. These venues may permit entrance to patrons on the condition that they do not serve alcohol past 1.30am and do not provide entertainment other than poker machines and background entertainment. Most licensed small bars (maximum 60 people), restaurants and tourist accommodation may stay open past 3am, although alcohol service is not permitted after this time.
Outside the CBD entertainment precinct
Effect on reducing offences
A report from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) released in April 2015 showed a 26% reduction in assaults in the lockout area, and a 32% reduction in assaults in Kings Cross. In a March 2017 report, however, areas adjacent to the lockout precinct showed a 12% increase in assaults, with a 17% increase in "easy-to-reach" areas.
Effect on CBD business
Several venues in Kings Cross have closed since 2014, with several owners blaming the lockout laws for shutting down the late-night economy. World Bar's management estimated revenue was down 25% in two years from 2014 to 2016. They blamed the decrease on the lockout laws.
In 2010, City of Sydney measured pedestrian traffic in Kings Cross peaking on Saturdays at 5,590 per hour between 1am and 2am. In 2015, the Saturday peak traffic had declined to 3,888 between 12am and 1am. Industry groups have claimed an 80 per cent reduction of foot traffic in Kings Cross, while the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education claims the decline is closer to 19 per cent.
Support for the lockout laws
A Fairfax-commissioned ReachTEL poll of 1,600 voters taken in August 2016 found "broad support within the community for keeping a 1.30am lockout (70 per cent) and retaining the 3am 'last drinks' time (72 per cent)". It further found that "three-quarters of young people support existing laws" and that a majority of NSW voters said the lockout laws should be extended across the state.
Reports in October 2018 stated that the NSW government, led by the Deputy Premier John Barilaro and at least eight members of the governing cabinet were seriously looking at scrapping or considerably relaxing the lock out laws due to the negative impact on businesses and the reputation of Sydney on people seeking to holiday in the city. Keep Sydney Open, which has lobbied against the laws, celebrated the reports on Thursday.“Finally the government is acknowledging the negative impact on businesses and the reputation of our city,” the group said. City of Sydney Councillor Christine Forster said she was pleased Mr Barilaro was reportedly onboard to reverse the laws.
In a letter to Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Cr Forster, the sister of former prime minister Tony Abbott, said the lockouts have taken an immense toll on the city’s late-night economy, already resulting in the closure of many businesses and threatening the future of scores more.” Lord Mayor Clover Moore also supports reversing the lockouts. The restrictions have overseen a decline in patronage in parts of the city. Numerous venues along the iconic LGBTQI strip Oxford Street have shut their doors. 
A </ref>https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/newtown-cracks-down-on-party-buses-as-support-slips-for-lockout-laws-20181005-p5080c.html</ref>ReachTel poll commissioned by The Sun-Herald in October 2018 found 38.8 per cent of voters want the lockout laws eased and trading hours extended, compared with 48.1 per cent who do not, with the rest undecided. Two years ago, 70 per cent of voters supported the lockouts.
Opposition to the lockout laws
When the law was first introduced, the NSW branch of the Australian Hotels Association said that the law would negatively impact Sydney's nighttime economy. As at April 2016, they were advocating for the lockouts to be replaced with a 'no new patrons' policy, whereby patrons arriving after 3am would have to book ahead and alcohol service could continue after 1.30am.
In September 2015, a 1000-member group named 'Reclaim the Streets' marched in protest of the lockout laws, claiming that the lockout had not solved the problem of alcohol-fuelled violence, instead pushing it into neighbouring suburbs, including Newtown.
On 21 February 2016, an estimated 15,000 attended a protest organised by 'Keep Sydney Open' to protest the lockout laws. Speaking at the protest was Dave Faulkner of band the Hoodoo Gurus, Isabella Manfredi of The Preatures, Nina Las Vegas, Crikey journalist Bernard Keane and Keep Sydney Open group leader Tyson Koh. Performing at the rally were Royal Headache, Art vs. Science and Future Classic DJs.
In October 2016, around 4,000 people attended another Keep Sydney Open protest calling for the NSW Government to lift lockout laws. Organisers said that the laws alienated young people and destroyed the live music scene, all while allowing The Star casino to remain open. A third Keep Sydney Open rally was planned for January 2017, but NSW Police summarily shut the rally down by making a last minute application to the New South Wales Supreme Court for a "prohibition order" under the Summary Offences Act 1988.
An independent review of the lockout laws, conducted by Ian Callinan, was released in September 2016. The review considered the impact and effectiveness of the laws, but did not address some of the complaints the community had about the laws, including the impact on employment in the precincts. While largely backing the laws, the review recommended relaxing the 1.30am lockout to 2am for live entertainment venues.
In December 2016, the NSW Government released its response to the review and said it would relax the lockout law for live music venues by a half-hour in a two-year trial. In line with the review, takeaway and home delivery alcohol sales will be extended from 10pm to 11pm across the State.
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