BY CHARLI SHIELD
Sydneysiders tired of having their nightlife curtailed by the 2014 lockout laws have marked a small victory thanks to the half hour extension granted to select venues in the city’s centre.
Sydney’s Burdekin Hotel is the most recent venue to confirm an exemption from the controversial lockouts since the Baird Government’s relaxation of the laws, announced late last year.
The Burdekin is now permitted to extend its lockout from 1:30am until 2am and to serve last drinks at 3:30am instead of 3am. It joins fellow high-profile live entertainment venues Oxford Art Factory, World Bar and The Basement within the Sydney CBD Entertainment Precinct, each of which have secured extended trading hours in the last few months.
The easing of the laws came after recommendations from an independent review conducted by former High Court judge Ian Callinan, who also suggested the state-wide ban of alcohol after 10pm be extended by an hour, saying it had minimal impact on violence and anti-social behaviour.
Campaign director of Keep Sydney Open, Tyson Koh, says while the exemptions are positive, they aren’t the right changes Sydney needs to foster a safe and vibrant late-night culture.
To do this, he says, we need anti-violence education campaigns, more effective policing and better transport options.
“It’s a very small step. [The government] haven’t committed to providing better services, they are only tinkering with closing times,” he said.
“From what we’ve seen from other businesses that have been granted this extension, it doesn’t really make a difference in terms of their revenue.
“While it’s very encouraging, we still have a long way to go.”
Greens MP Jenny Leong agrees that the extensions do not go far enough, saying that “making our city safer and allowing people to go out and party are not mutually exclusive.”
“What we need is big change,” she said.
“There are many ways of addressing violence associated with alcohol that don’t shut down our nightlife, like tougher measures on problem venues and responsible services of alcohol certifications, and educating young people on alcohol and alcohol-related violence.”
But some groups remain vigilantly opposed to any softening of the lockout laws, and see these recent changes as a step backwards.
The Last Drinks Coalition, a group representing emergency service workers, credits the lockout laws with a significant reduction in alcohol and drug-fuelled violence and urges the government to reconsider any changes.
“We know that the alcohol laws work. We’ve seen the positive change on Sydney’s streets and we’re concerned that relaxing the alcohol laws will now result in a rapid increase in assaults, violence and serious injury,” a spokesperson for the organisation said.
“The alcohol laws have saved hundreds of people’s lives and spared thousands more from serious and debilitating injury. The only change to the laws should be for them to be rolled out across the state.”