The City of Sydney's submission to the NSW Government's Callinan review has recommended measures to reduce alcohol-related harm while supporting a lively and dynamic night-time economy.
Our submission puts forward a package of recommendations that, taken together, encourage good venue management and support our live music and cultural sectors, while balancing the needs of residents and making no compromises on public safety.
We want a civilised, safe late night economy with different options for people of all ages to go out and enjoy themselves after dark, without the blood soaked, drunken punch ups on the street.
The City spent years trying to get successive State Governments to respond to a worsening situation in the Cross. We knew what the problem was - too many venues in one area, lifetime liquor licences that reduce accountability, and a planning system that doesn't recognise when an area has become saturated.
Rather than addressing the real problems, the NSW Government's response was to introduce a blanket lockout across the city centre and Kings Cross (with an inexplicable exemption for the casino).
It was a sledgehammer when what we needed was a well-researched, evidence based, flexible response using transport, planning, licensing and police.
There is no doubt the lockout law made some areas, especially Kings Cross, safer and returned normalcy to residents and that must not change.
But the lockout law has hurt Sydney's cultural life and had negative impacts on businesses, including live music venues, small bars and restaurants, and many people have lost their jobs. It's a significant sector - in 2013, late-night activities were valued at over $17.8 billion and employed more than 30,000 people.
Well-managed late-trading premises are essential to our city's cultural life and economic growth - and people need to feel safe, no one wants to wake up to blood and urine on their doorstep. We need to get both right.
These exemptions, on a trial basis, based on evidence, and backed up by renewable licences, saturation controls and late night transport, will ensure we don't return to the Kings Cross that was bloody and violent every weekend.
-Lord Mayor Clover Moore
The City's submission will present 31 recommendations, including:
- A 12-month trial exemption from the 1.30am lockout for well-managed premises and live music and performance venues;
- Reconsideration of the blanket 3am 'last drinks' rule, taking into account a venue's compliance history, planning controls, and local factors;
- Continuation of the 10pm take-away liquor sales restriction as a measure to address pre-fuelling;
- Replacing the existing liquor license freeze with new 'saturation zone' rules that consider the number and type of licensed premises in a given area, along with relevant crime data and transport options;
- Making base trading hours until 2am consistent for all small bars across NSW, along with an increase in their capacity limit from 60 to 120 patrons;
- Reduction or removal of the 'trading hours loading fee' (paid by venues considered 'high-risk' because they trade after midnight, are located in the CBD or Kings Cross entertainment precincts, or have a high patron capacity) for small bars and live music and performance venues;
- Non-renewal of a venue's liquor license for ongoing non-compliance or representation on the 'violent venues' list;
- The extension of train services on Friday and Saturday nights until after venue closing times, to ensure people can get home quickly and safely;
- Establishment of a licensing panel, with representation from Liquor and Gaming NSW, NSW Police and the relevant local council to review and determine liquor license applications and revisions; and
- Establishment of NSW Government-led working groups focusing on the development of a sustainable night-time economy, including support for the live music sector, and late-night transport improvements.
- If all recommendations were to be implemented, the City would also recommend the NSW Government consider removing the 1.30am lockout for all venues.