BY ALEX EUGENE
Local campaign group Keep Sydney Open brought thousands of partygoers out on the streets of Kings Cross last week.
A music festival aptly titled “Meet Me In the Cross” featured a slew of Australian live acts supporting the push against lockout laws, and hundreds of punters proudly sported white T-shirts with the ‘Keep Sydney Open’ logo.
“We’re done with waiting for the government to give us permission to enjoy our city. Let’s light up the Cross. The fun starts NOW!” proclaimed the group’s Facebook page.
The entirely volunteer-run organisation referred to the event as a “precinct activation”, and successfully pulled off the festival with the help of hundreds of helpers and in-kind contributions from local businesses.
One such display of support was the Kings Cross Hotel, who displayed a huge “Keep Sydney Open” banner on the front of their venue during the festival.
But the City of Sydney ordered the hotel to remove the sign because they had not sought council approval, threatening them with a six thousand dollar fine.
“We had good intentions in putting the banner up. It was about supporting a community initiative and local businesses in the area,” said Dan Lacaze, marketing director at Solotel, which owns the Kings Cross Hotel.
The sign was removed, and an apology was issued by the hotel.
The council had been alerted to the “illegal” banner by the 2011 Residents Association, who claimed it had made Kings Cross a “political situation”.
“How dare they? If we get vilified for being sticks in the mud or dobbers, so be it,” said Peter Young, the group’s secretary.
2011 is the postcode for Kings Cross, and the group represents local interests. On their website, a statement reads “the 2011 Residents’ Association supports current lockout laws for Kings Cross.”
But new statistics released by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has found that assaults have risen in areas outside the lockout law zones.
Dr Don Weatherburn, director of BOCSR said the laws had only caused violence to be displaced outside Kings Cross.
“If you look at the report, you’ll see there are definite upswings in the number of assaults occurring in the area immediately surrounding the lockout precincts and in the areas within easy reach of those precincts,” he said.
The report showed that assaults had fallen by 50% in Kings Cross and the CBD, but outside those areas had risen by 17%, including Newtown, Bondi, Double Bay and Coogee.
“It’s a matter of concern that we’ve seen major reductions in assault in the target areas, but there’s been some spillover into other parts of Sydney,” said Dr Weatherburn.
Several venues around Sydney have closed down since the lockout laws were introduced in 2014, including the iconic Midnight Shift on Oxford Street. Anecdotal evidence from many businesses blames the laws for their declining patronage.
Tyson Koh from Keep Sydney Open said the “Meet Me In the Cross” festival was a response to the worrying trend.
He said droves of creative people had already left for Melbourne and Berlin, but that he and many others refused to give up the fight.
“Sydney is our home. We want this place to sing day and night,” he said.
The 2011 Residents Group want the lockout bans extended to more areas. But the government has no such plans, and recently wound back the lockouts by half an hour, allowing venues to trade until 2 am instead of 1.30am.