No lockout during Mardi Gras means big smiles all around! Photo: Dykes on Bikes

Posted by & filed under City News.

BY MICHAEL HITCH

The Mardi Gras parade represents diversity, equality, love… and being permitted to enter a licensed premise after 1:30am.

Yes, you did read that right!

Sydney-siders, tourists and gays everywhere can rejoice as the NSW Government will once again lift its controversial lockout laws for the Mardi Gras parade following the success of last year’s turnout.

For one night only on 2 March, pubs and clubs along Oxford street in Darlinghurst, as well as the entire City, will be permitted to keep their doors open past 1:30am and their taps flowing past 3:00am, and protecting parade-goers from the logistics of a 300,000-person turnout.

Leader of Keep Sydney Open (KSO), Tyson Koh, described how KSO and Liberal City of Sydney Councillor, Christine Forster, worked together to enact the exemption which acts as a crowd control/protection measure for the parade.

Keeping Sydney Open is safe

“This exemption exists because of Keep Sydney Open. We knew that with hundreds, maybe even a million people in the city, that being inside venues is the safest place to be,” he said.

“When that many people are in the City and are locked out of venues, especially without trains running at night… it’s a disaster.

“Last year was the 40th anniversary of Mardi Gras and an exemption was granted for the night. It was a major success so we really hope for a similar result this year.”

Mr Koh also mentioned that the success of the lockout exemption shows that the lockout laws have a negative effect on the City of Sydney.

“The centre of the city is meant to be for entertainment and business and life and activity and retail etcetera. We saw the boom last year, but business has been stagnating since because people don’t make the journey into the city anymore, which is a shame because these businesses rely on foot traffic.”

“These businesses are now doing it tough and even closing down. The streets are now statistically more unsafe and they’re lifeless.”

This year’s festive theme is “Fearlessness,” but the NSW government fearfully knocked back a push from Liberal City of Sydney Councillor, Christine Forster, and Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, for inner city bars and pubs to have extended late-night trading in the week prior to the Mardi Gras parade.

Councillor Christine Forster told City Hub that the one-night exception provided a major boon for local business while allowing the public to experience Sydney’s true nightlife, and that a week-long exception would “multiply” these benefits.

“Patronage across the board would increase, businesses would benefit, the general public would benefit, everyone would experience what Sydney nightlife used to be like and what it should be like permanently.”

With the benefits of re-instating late night trading becoming apparent, it’s no wonder that Cr Forster thinks that the lockout laws have lost their touch.

“The lockout laws have served their purpose and, in my opinion, are no longer required,” she said.

“It was clear prior to the introduction of lockout laws in 2014 that alcohol-fuelled violence, particularly in the Kings Cross area, was out of control. There is no doubt that a circuit breaker was needed then, and the introduction of the lockout laws has clearly provided this, borne out by the subsequent reductions in the number of assaults in Kings Cross and across the Sydney CBD entertainment precinct.”

While lockout laws currently take the conversational cake, politicians and parade-goers have also called out the presence of sniffer dogs at the event.

Bring a butt-plug or two

Though some see sniffers as a drug-preventative measure, others have expressed concern with the NSW Government’s decision to increase their presence at events across the state, and Mardi Gras is no exception.

Alex Greenwich agrees, saying that sniffer dog presence works against a harm minimisation approach to drug use and that the Mardi Gras parade is falling prey to the NSW Government’s obsession with punishing drug users.

“I oppose the use of sniffer dogs, which is contrary to the harm minimisation approach to drugs. Sniffer dogs have done little to prevent drug trafficking and crime but have mostly criminalised drug users who are otherwise law-abiding citizens and clogged up the court system. This is an issue for all festivals in the state not just LGBTIQ events.”

So, there you have it folks, if you want to sneak in a pinch of chemical enhancement for your parade viewing… I advise that you bring a butt-plug or two.

NSW Police were contacted for comment but did not respond.