Thursday’s announcement by New South Wales’ Premier Mike Baird to soften its lockout laws may be seen as a relief for business operators in and around Sydney’s CBD and Kings Cross. The state government’s response to the easing of these laws, as recommended by an independent liquor law review, is the extension of the 1:30am lockout to 2am, and last drinks also by half hour to 3:30am. Furthermore, restrictions on takeaway sales across the state have been relaxed from 10pm to 11pm. These changes are especially uplifting for those in the live entertainment sector, as well as pubs and clubs owners, however opponents of the Premier’s laws have stated that these changes were not enough to keep businesses alive.
The introduction of the controversial laws in early 2014 has had various degrees of impact on the community and economy of the affected precincts. According to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, there was an overall reduction in the monthly number of assaults in the two areas of Sydney CBD and Kings Cross precincts. Notably, the Kings Cross and Sydney CBD precincts have experienced a reduction of 45.1% and 20.3%, respectively, in non-domestic assaults since January 2014. In terms of the monthly number of assaults during weekends during peak period between 1:30am and 2:59am, Kings Cross and Sydney CBD experienced a reduction of 70.2% and 30.7% respectively. In stating these, it is yet to be made clear whether the reduction in assaults is the result of a fall in alcohol consumption, a reduction in the number of patrons visiting these entertainment precincts, or both.
We strongly note that business conditions around the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross precincts have suffered as a direct result of changes in business operating practices and opening hours. Declines in foot traffic in around the city areas were reported in City of Sydney’s latest research on Late Night Management Area. Between 2012 and 2015, it is reported that all precincts around Sydney experienced a decrease in peak pedestrian count after 1am. Notably, by 4am, decreases of 84% of patrons in Kings Cross, 82% in Oxford Street, and 70% in CBD South were observed. Business activities around these precincts have also been affected. Early closures were evident in the changes between 2012 and 2015, with a 15% decrease in businesses open after 10pm, 20% decrease of those open between 10-11pm and 25% decrease in those open between 11pm and 12am.
A survey of respondents in the same report indicate that many believe improvements to the night time economy can be made through changes in lockout laws. The survey showed that one quarter of respondents provide an ‘Other’ response, with 29% of these responses of these suggesting ‘no more lockouts’ and 24% suggesting more police presence. Changes to Sydney’s lockout laws may bring a hint of hope and revival to Sydney’s hospitality and liquor businesses. Effective as of January 2017 as part of a two-year trial, the changes have been deemed as a step forward for Sydney’s night economy. We will closely monitor the progress of business activity throughout 2017 to fully recognise the impact of these law changes.