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Efforts to transform Sydney’s late-night economy face structural barriers in the form of transport options, critical mass and penalty rates, the City of Sydney’s business and safety manager Suzie Matthews says.

The City’s “OPEN Sydney” action plan is the result of extensive consultation beginning in 2011 and aims to diversify Sydney’s night-time entertainment options beyond the consumption of alcohol.

The long-term strategy goes out to 2030. But asked about progress in 2014, Ms Matthews said there were several issues that could impede action in the short term.

The first structural issue is about “building a level of trust and confidence in our late-night public transport system that might not be there at the moment”. City businesses need to know their staff can commute home safely and efficiently, but Sydney’s train and bus network is notably patchy late at night.

Nor are the solutions necessarily easy. The City’s strategy calls for more public transport, better taxi availability and improved bicycle access. But Ms Matthews noted that when the state government provided extra buses in Kings Cross, it did little to attract patrons.

“They did it, and no-one got the buses,” she said.

Secondly, there is uncertainty about whether foot traffic has reached critical mass for business owners to keep trading after hours. Ms Matthews says the City has almost finished crunching data collected from pedestrian counts, intercepts and observational studies conducted in 2012. The research looked at the numbers, demographics and purposes of people in the city and precincts between 6pm and 6am.

“That’s data that I believe is gold,” she said.

Thirdly, Ms Matthews raised the issue of penalty rates acting as a disincentive to businesses operating late at night. In October, the Restaurant and Caterers Association asked the Fair Work Commission to reduce or remove penalty rates for weekday hospitality work performed after 10pm. Fair Work rejected the application.

“[It’s] beyond ours to address, but it was certainly something that was raised with us during the Open Sydney consultation process,” Ms Matthews said. “[It’s] a massive barrier for businesses to do business late at night.”

One area of regulation that does fall within the City of Sydney’s remit is around opening hours, which are prescribed by an operator’s development application. According to Ms Matthews, there is now a proactive focus on giving shops the flexibility to stay open longer, which didn’t exist before.

“Let’s give you the maximum that you might want. You may not want to do it now, but it gives you the flexibility down the track to do it,” she said.

Ms Matthews said a recent trip to Korea had given her a better insight into a diverse and accessible late-night economy.

“There was a lot of public drunkenness in Seoul, but I didn’t see the bad behaviour that I see in Sydney. You had the range of options that brings families, kids [and] older people into the city. It’s not dominated by one use.”

6 responses to “Barriers to night economy diversity”

  1. john bowan says:

    Another failed clover moore plan admits her over-paid acolyte, Suzie Matthews
    Mrs Moore has blood on her hands over recent Deaths in Kings Cross: she approved too many DAs for pubs and clubs,

  2. Tell It Like It Is says:

    Apropos the comment about “families, kids [and] older people into the city”, the point is that such people are not going to be wanting to be out late and indulging in some expansive pie-in-the-sky “VIBRANT NIGHTTIME ECONOMY”. Those sorts of people will be home by a reasonable hour. The only thing that very late night people want to do into the wee hours of the morning is drink alcohol +/- other drugs. Still I am sure that hundreds of residents in Potts Point and surrounds would venture into Kings Cross in the evenings to at least have dinner in a decent restaurant if the place wasn’t so disgustingly and embarrassingly ugly. As it is local residents just bunker down in the evenings and most would not be caught dead in KX in the evenings. And there is nothing else to do there much besides drink, get tattoos or go to a sex shop or a brothel. Lovely!

  3. Steve Groves says:

    The State Government of NSW should demand Sydney Trains provide late night shuttle Train Services between Bondi Junction and Central Station.
    People need to be able to get out of Kings Cross when they choose and not having to hang around waiting on the Rail Network to commence it’s daily timetable commitment from around 0400

  4. M J Brown says:

    I understand there were trains running during the Fleet Review last year. Is there any feedback on the availability of trains and their impact on the crowd etc problems that beset Kings Cross?
    The greatest problem at the Cross is the 3am/5am closures of the big clubs and pubs. These operating hours are all approved by the City of Sydney and can be altered and/or reduced when they come up for renewal. All the pious words from the Mayor and others about “culture” etc can not provide an escape from the fact that every late night club or hotel in the Kings Cross area has been approved to stay open to 3am/5am through a City of Sydney decision, all taken under Ms Moore’s control.

  5. Stephanie Calabornes says:

    While Suzie Mathews states extensive consultations, there is no comment on what businesses, members of public or residents were consulted. Answers are with the public, not across table meetings with what Ms Moore and her team of 26 recommend. As noted in The Telegraph….whilst Clover Moore may appear to consult community, does she really …as again illustrated here In my opinion, the answer to a more diversified economy lay within the City of Sydney Community. I challenge Suzie Mathews to provide statistical evidence that is fullproof with regard to extensive consultations…Words come so easy to Clover Moore acolytes and team members with little or no guarantee these words are correct.
    Both Clover Moore through Hotel Industry and small bar association have gained funding, media focus from the grog industry this person is affilliated with 30 small bars…look at Clover Moore endorsement….And Barry O Farrell NSW Libs with Nicolaou as prior major fundraiser for the party.

    Two peas on the pod, or a major case of poison ivy in New South Wales and City of Sydney Local Govt Area, Suzie Mathews in my belief has a case of that rash.

  6. Peter Young - Kings Cross says:

    The proposal for a 24/7 sounds like a great idea.

    However to residents who live in Woolloomooloo and Edgecliff it does not sound like a great idea.

    At the moment, they at least get about 3 hours peace between 1am and 4am.

    I guess their loss of amenity – and right to quiet enjoyment of their residences, will just be considered collateral damage to the pursuit of Mammon – personified in Kings Cross by a desire by grogdealers to be able to trade 24/7.

    How fortunate the AHA(NSW) have the full support of Clover Moore and the City of Sydney in this regard.

    Residents can go cry in their morning coffee.

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