Hello, everyone. Welcome to the launch of Eat/Drink/Walk Sydney.
During travels in Europe in 2007 I was impressed with small bars where people were able to have a quiet drink with friends - it appeared so civilised compared to the larger, loud and crowded clubs and taverns that dominated Sydney.
But Sydney residents had little choice. They could go to clubs and pubs with poker machines and TV screens, or nightclubs with loud pumping music. The focus was on heavy drinking.
People kept talking about Melbourne and its quirky bars in cool laneways. I was certain that Sydney could do better but our laws were prohibitive for smaller venues, whereas Melbourne had reformed its laws, allowing the small bar scene to flourish in the late 90s and early noughties.
At a CityTalk in 2007, Belvoir Street Theatre Artistic Director Neil Armfield spoke about the need to maintain the "seedbeds" of cultureâ€”places where artists and performers are nurtured and he described opportunities provided to young musos and visual artists by the Melbourne small bar scene.
It was then that I resolved to move a private members bill to introduce small bars into NSW licensing laws.
I announced my intention to introduce legislative changes and the groundswell of support was overwhelming.
The Sydney Morning Herald ran with countless stories, the Raise the Bar campaign group was created specifically to support my bill, people started blogging, Facebook groups were set up, and thousands of people across the state contacted their MP.
My negotiations with Government were difficult at first, with the then Minister and bureaucrats telling me my changes were unnecessary. But as the campaign got stronger and louder, things changed until the Government decided to bring in new liquor legislation which incorporated my changes.
People wanted choice; they wanted a more civilised alternative to what they were getting and this can be seen from the way Sydney has embraced a new culture of smaller, lower impact bars - we now have 70 just in our LGA.
So now enough of them for Two Feet & A Heartbeat to launch this tour.
Equally obviously - and for the sake of your health and your brain cells - you won't be visiting all of them tonight! But as you stroll between venues, your guide will point some of them out - especially the less obvious ones that you might not have found unaided.
They'll also tell you about some of Sydney's many great restaurants and at least some of the great activities on offer in the City and City villages.
All great cities thrive not just on the great set-piece tourist attractions but on the often off-beat and distinctive places that the home crowd feels at home in, and the visitors want to explore.
I know you'll all enjoy this small taste of Sydney tonight, and I hope you'll come back to discover more for yourselves.
Meanwhile, congratulations to the tour organisers for helping to make Sydney's small bar scene a "must-see" part of everyone's agenda.