Any venue can be exempted if it pays "a reasonable fee"

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“Can [people] do things other than drink, at midnight in this city?”

The important question was posed not by angry residents, grieving parents or exasperated observers, but by the City of Sydney’s own business and safety manager, Suzie Matthews.

And if the answer is ‘not really’, that’s something Ms Matthews is trying to change. The challenge of Sydney’s late-night economy is that it is “dominated by one use”, she said.

“That’s where you need to have controls where you turn off the tap in some areas.”

A freeze on new liquor licences is already incumbent in the Kings Cross and Oxford Street precincts, the result of council lobbying in 2009. But Ms Matthews said that further restrictions would be necessary to transform and diversify Sydney’s late-night economy.

“Managed growth is crucial, and you can’t have managed growth without the ability to say no,” Ms Matthews told City News.

Asked whether further regulations on venues – such as the so-called “Newcastle solution” – could damage Sydney’s standing as a global city, she said the two priorities were not conflicting.

“The successful global cities that have gotten this right are the ones that have the proportionality and the better balance of offers late at night.”

Brian Adams, chair of the Surry Hills Business Alliance, said the strategy of expanding late-night options is wrong at this point in time. He called for tougher rules and for all hotels to close at 10pm in order to combat alcohol-fuelled violence.

“Blind Freddie knows the solution,” he said.

“The more liquor outlets you have, the more people are going to frequent them and the more people you’re going to have out on the streets.”