Industry reacts to Kings Cross lockout repeal

10 February, 2021 by Andy Young

Australia’s hospitality industry has widely welcomed the news that the remaining Sydney lockout laws, still in place in Kings Cross, will be lifted next month as the NSW Government looks to help revive the city, after the hits caused by COVID-19.

The lockouts were eased in Sydney’s CBD and Oxford Street early last year, but remain in place for Kings Cross, however NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the changes that have happen in the area since 2014 gave the Government confidence in relaxing the laws there.

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“Kings Cross has transformed considerably since these laws were introduced over six years ago,” the Premier said.

“The precinct is now well positioned to continue to evolve into a vibrant lifestyle and cultural destination with a diverse mix of small bars, live music venues and restaurants.”

The 1.30am ‘lock out’ will be lifted from March 8, allowing patrons to enter pubs, bars and nightclubs in Kings Cross after that time. The 3.30am last drinks will be in place for the area, and across the city.

Restrictions on serving cocktails, shots and drinking out of glass (instead of plastic cups) will also be removed, and requirements for Responsible Service of Alcohol marshals and CCTV will no longer apply. The ID scanners system, which requires some venues to record patrons’ ID during busy times such as Friday and Saturday nights will be retained.

Alcohol Beverages Australia CEO Andrew Wilsmore, welcomed what he called a long overdue, but sensible decision.

“Alcohol Beverages Australia welcomes the boost to the city’s economy and global reputation that will come following the NSW Government’s decision to lift the last remaining restriction that accompanied the ‘lockouts’, Wilsmore said.

“We have long argued lockout laws were a blunt instrument to solve a problem that required a targeted solution. It’s long overdue but this sensible decision comes at a time when the hospitality industry – one of the country’s biggest employers – is crying out for help.

“Australians have shown they can drink responsibly. This final relaxing of lockout laws is an belated recognition of our changing drinking culture. Let’s make sure we all stay safe and sensible.”

AHA NSW Director Liquor and Gaming John Green called the decision a welcome start to 2021: “Kings Cross, like the rest of Sydney has been impacted heavily by COVID-19. It was important that as we move forward, additional burdens to business were removed,” he said.

“The majority of the Kings Cross culture that saw those significant restrictions including lockouts imposed has changed forever, and with further changes to come, removing the lockouts is a welcome start to 2021.”

The Night Time Industries Association also welcomed the move, but cautioned there is still a lot for the wider industry to do, to keep Sydney safe at night.

“Removal of the last lockouts in Sydney is an important landmark in the revival of our city’s nightlife,” the association said.

“Times have changed since the laws were introduced and with so much of the hospitality sector hit hard by COVID, it makes sense to introduce the changes.

“They won’t have been made lightly, and we still have a job to do to make sure everyone’s night time experience is as safe as ever.

“With our urban centres beginning to recover from lockouts and lockdowns, today’s reforms are another positive boost for Sydney’s night time economy as we enter 2021.”

Spirits & Cocktails Australia CEO, Greg Holland also praised the NSW Government for making the changes “at a time when they are needed most”.

He added: “With Australians’ alcohol consumption at historically low levels, patrons have proven themselves. As their drinking habits have matured, it is heartening to see that Government regulations have caught up to these positive changes.

“Additionally, with the hospitality sector undoubtedly one of the hardest hit by COVID-19, it is great to see this Government supporting sensible changes that will help these local businesses recover and ultimately support more jobs for Sydneysiders.”

NSW Independent Bars Association President Karl Schlothauer said the move is exactly the tonic Sydney’s small bars need.

“Sydney’s CBD has borne the brunt of COVID-19. This city’s hospitality and tourism sectors have been hit particularly hard by lockdowns and outbreaks and now a sluggish return to city working. But [Tuesday’s] announcement offers a glimmer of hope for our COVID-recovery.

“With the lockout burden lifted, our venues have the potential to grow their operations and, of course, create more jobs.”

Schlothauer added that many small venues continue to struggle as social distancing requirements prohibit them operating at full capacity.

“Our venues in the Cross will finally be given the same opportunity as other venues in the CBD to trade later and recoup lost income, as we comply with capacity requirements to keep the community safe.

“But the community also has a role to play. We need them to come back out to the city to enjoy our sensational bars and world-class hospitality, feeling assured that we are doing all we can to keep them COVID-safe.”

The changes to the rules in Kings Cross will be reviewed 12 months after they come into effect on 8 March.