The Kings Cross Hotel were ordered to remove the Keep Sydney Open banner, which was not council approved. Credit: Courtesy of Kings Cross Hotel

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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.

  • Peter

    The sign was erected without council consent being applied for. The owner of Kings Cross Hotel, the Solotel Group has over 20 hotels in its portfolio. The Kings Cross Hotel said the reason it didn’t apply for consent was that it was unaware it was necessary to do so. That a major operator in the industry is unaware of the need for consent to erect a huge sign strains credulity to its limits. Had the Hotel done the right thing, the community would had had a say through the DA process, By failing to apply for consent, that say was denied. Erecting the sign unlawfully was a statement of “Up Yours” to the community and many of the people complaining to the 2011 Residents Association about the sign had perceived it to be so. Enquiries were made of the Keep Sydney Open organisation as to the financing of the sign. The initial response by KSO to the enquiry was one of being affronted – how dare you question the bonafides of KSO. Many said KSO was financed solely by the hard work and donations of volunteers. Later it was revealed the sign was financed solely by the Kings Cross Hotel. The sign promoting the political cause of KSO was being paid for solely by a major alcohol industry player. That was a shocking revelation in light of the many sanctimonious statements that KSO did not and would not take funding from large players in the alcohol industry, directly or indirectly. The cost of the sign, its erection and removal and the week long exposure in a premium location has a commercial value estimated at $30,000. KSO had the benefit of an in-kind donation of the promotion of its campaign of $30,000. So much for KSO claiming it wasn’t financed by the liquor industry! Many perceived the actions of KSO (and the Hotel) as indicating a wish to establish Kings Cross as a place of lawlessness – where rules are not followed and one does as one chooses. 2011 Residents Association don’t want to see Kings Cross return to the regular Friday and Saturday night warzone it was before the “lock-out” laws ( a suite of measures) commenced in 2014. The improvement in residential amenity since 2014 have been large.However, the statement ” The 2011 Residents Group want the lockout bans extended to more areas ” is a figment of the journalists imagination.