A new vision for Sydney's nightlife

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Let's restore Sydney's nightlife

We have a vision for a Sydney once again renowned for its vibrancy, diversity and safety.

As many submissions to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Sydney's night time economy demonstrate, Sydney has lost this reputation over the five years following the introduction of the lockout laws and associated measures. These measures have had serious impacts on our cultural life, our communities and our economy, particularly our tourism and hospitality industries. For example, we’ve seen the number of live music venues halved. There has been a serious decline in the number of tourists choosing Sydney, particularly tourists under 35.

I acknowledge that alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour was a serious problem before the lockouts. It was a problem that had been allowed to fester because successive governments failed to act, but the result was a sledgehammer approach to crack a nut. What was needed was 24 hour public transport on Friday and Saturday nights, a responsible licencing system, and action to prevent the concentration of venues in the area.

While action was needed, I warned the State Government that its approach would have a devastating impact on the night-time economy.

The lockout laws failed to distinguish between well-run venues and badly-run venues. They failed to distinguish between venues which contributed to our cultural life and those which contributed to violence and anti-social behavior. They failed to distinguish between venues which helped build Sydney’s reputation as a cosmopolitan global city and those which degraded our neighbourhoods.

Five years on, we need a new approach. We must repeal the lockout laws and instead incentivise well-run venues and penalise poorly run venues, using the authority of the Liquor Act. This includes making strategic use of early cessation of service, temporary and long-term closures and ultimately, cancellation of licences under the three strikes rule. 

We must prevent future problems by not allowing excessive clustering of high impact venues and by encouraging diversity. This includes making it easier to establish live performance venues and related creative spaces.

We must encourage a nightlife that is not exclusively dependent on the consumption of alcohol, while recognising that many people still want to enjoy a drink late at night. Instead we want a nightlife where alcohol is served responsibly and people can enjoy a drink in an environment that is civilised and safe.

The City has been taking action to achieve this vision for many years, most recently with our Late Night Trading Development Control Plan (DCP). Around 10,000 people took part in our consultations to develop the DCP. The majority told us they wanted increased hours for late night trading, more late night venues close to where they lived and greater diversity of late night businesses. Our draft DCP attracted over 1000 submissions, with over 90 per cent strongly supporting it.

Later this year Council will consider new proposals to manage sound from entertainment venues and allow shops to stay open later without the need for Council approval. We also want to make it easier to establish temporary and permanent creative spaces and engage in cultural activities. These measures will help diversify our nightlife.

To achieve this vision we want to work collaboratively with our creative and cultural sector and with the hospitality industry. Most importantly, we would like an effective partnership with the NSW Government. We look forward to the outcomes of the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Sydney's Night Time Economy and stand ready to work collaboratively with the government to restore Sydney’s nightlife.

Will you stand with us to help us breathe oxygen back into Sydney's night time economy?