Music

Surprise! Here’s How Damaging Sydney’s Lockout Laws Have Been

Spoiler: quite damaging.

Sydney lockouts

There was never any question that Sydney’s controversial lockout laws would have a serious long term impact on the city’s nightlife, but recent figures from the NSW Office & Liquor and Gaming show just how devastating they’ve been.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that 418 licensed premises in Kings Cross and the CBD have closed since the introduction of the laws at the beginning of 2014, while only 242 new small bar licenses have been granted — meaning the city has seen a net loss of 176 venues.

That includes iconic venues such as Backroom, Soho, Hugo’s Lounge, The Flinders, Trademark, The Bourbon and Q-Bar. A 2016 report by City of Sydney council revealed that late night foot traffic along Oxford Street and in the Kings Cross area dropped by 80%.

The NSW government is currently conducting a parliamentary inquiry into live music, with Set Mo and Preatures’ Izzy Manfredi set to give evidence today. Over the last few months, industry figures such as APRA CEO Dean Ormston, ARIA CEO Dan Rosen, Hoodoo Gurus frontman Dave Faulkner, and Tim Levinson (aka Urthboy) have given evidence.

The parliamentary inquiry has already made some interesting discoveries, notably that there are at least six “overlapping” government authorities that deal with noise complaints. “It’s so complicated that even the government can’t actually tell you how this works,” John Graham, a Labor member spearheading Labor Loves Live Music, told the Daily Telegraph

Graham adds that the government has only completed five of the 25 recommendations put forward by the nighttime economy taskforce — which was created by the City of Sydney to kickstart the city’s nightlife.

“They were all due to be completed now,” Graham told the SMH. “We also know the timing on the contemporary music plan (‘second half of 2018’) and the night time economy master plan (end of 2018) — both should have been delivered last year.”

Only a few changes have been made to the lockout laws since their introduction, the biggest being the half hour relaxation of the laws: which pushed the lockout for live music venues back from 1.30am to 2am, and extended the last drinks law from 3am to 3.30am.

Inner West council mayor Darcy Byrne told the SMH it’s not just the inner city that is being affected by the laws.

“In practice, the deadly troika of councils, the liquor regulator and the licensing police are combining to form a tacit fun police force which is killing our live music scene,” Byrne said.

“As mayor I see it as my responsibility to end the prosecution of music venues by council and to go into bat for venues who are being harassed with vexatious noise complainants through [Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority] and the licensing police.”

Byrne will also give evidence to the inquiry, which will finish up at the end of August.