Industry reacts to lockout repeal

29 November, 2019 by Andy Young

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has on Thursday announced that the majority of Sydney’s lockout laws will be wound back, commencing Tuesday 14 January 2020.

Australian Hotelier reported full details on the rollback yesterday, detailing that that trading hours will be extended for licensed venues and bottleshops within the Sydney CBD precinct, and that after-midnight drink regulations will be relaxed.

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The move has been largely welcomed by the industry with AHA NSW CEO John Whelan saying the association had always strongly objected to the blanket measures.

“We always said the lockout laws would strangle Sydney’s night-life and that is exactly what has happened over the last five years.

“We welcome their removal and now ask all sides of politics to come together to work to re-invigorate the city’s night-life and return Sydney to its status as Australia’s only global city.”

However Whelan said that while the outcomes were mainly positive, the AHA was disappointed the Government has not implemented the removal of the CBD last drinks measures recommended by the Committee.

“We look forward to the review in 12 months and remain committed to working with Government and all stakeholders to help create a safe and vibrant Sydney and King’s Cross.”

The Night Time Industries Association has also welcomed the wind-back as an opening measure to get Sydney’s night-time economy back to a global-city status.

“The Joint Select Committee report on Night Time Economy prompted these reforms and it is fantastic to see the key recommendations are supported in today’s announcement – it’s a great start.” stated NTIA chair, Michael Rodriguez.

“Turning Sydney’s nightlife back on, isn’t as simple as flicking a switch – we’ll be taking our time to ensure the industry does its part to get Sydney back on track in a considered way – and we, in particular, welcome the establishment of an Industry Advisory Group where we hope to be able to play a part in bringing a range of night-time voices to help shape the future of Sydney’s nightlife,”.

“As Mr Ayers is also the minister for Western Sydney we are excited by the opportunity to rebuild Sydney’s night-time economy – not just in the inner city – but also in a manner shaped by and welcoming to greater Sydney.”

Chair of the NSW Independent Bars Association, Karl Schlothauer, said he welcomed the news, adding “we’re looking forward to working with them to roll out these changes.

He told TheShout: “Small bars have changed the way we drink and go out in Sydney. We have some of the best bars in the world and yesterday’s announcement to increase our patron capacity to 120 means that more people will soon be able to enjoy what we have to offer.

“What is interesting is the date picked for these changes to commence.

“While it may seem that Santa didn’t come early, perhaps the Government has waited for the dust to settle on what is traditionally known as the ‘silly season’.

“What is important is that this is the first step in an important journey to restore Sydney’s reputation and nightlife.

“Now is the time for all of us working in the industry to be talking to our guests and peers to educate them about what a responsible night out in Sydney looks like, so we don’t see the lockouts return when the government reviews their decision in a year’s time. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape out nightlife, so it’s important we get the balance right.”

Spirits & Cocktails Australia also welcomed the announcement, CEO Greg Holland said the changes are an important first step to revitalise Sydney’s night-time economy.

“The NSW Government has wasted no time in implementing the Joint Select Committee’s recommendation to reverse the 2014 liquor laws and has taken decisive action to revitalise the city to maximise the peak trading period over summer.”

“Now residents and visitors alike can make the most of daylight savings and enjoy all that Sydney has to offer by day, then return to the city to experience our world class bars and hospitality offering late at night.”

“It is pleasing to see the NSW Government has recognised the positive contribution small bars, spirits and cocktails have made to improve Sydney’s drinking culture. As a nation, we’re drinking less than at any stage in the last 50 years but we’re choosing quality alcohol and drinking experiences over volume. The changes announced today create the foundations for this important trend to continue and for cocktail bars to thrive.”

“There is still a long way to go to ensure we fully restore Sydney’s reputation as a nightlife destination. As the inquiry into Sydney’s night-time economy has shown, night-time industries and consumers are committed to working with government to ensure we get the night right. I have every confidence that once the Committee’s recommendations are implemented in full, Sydney’s night-time economy will be the envy of the world.”

Leading hospitality group Solotel has been a strong campaigner against the lockouts and was a founding member of the NTIA, as such CEO Justine Baker celebrated yesterday’s announcement.

“Today’s announcement is monumental for the global brand of Sydney, the first move in securing our cities future as a night time destination for arts, culture and entertainment,” Baker said. “And one that supports a bustling night time economy for youth culture, late night retail and business.”

Solotel said it acknowledges lockouts will not be lifted in Kings Cross and that there is a pathway to review this in 12 months.

“Although we are disappointed the removal of the lockouts does not extend to the Kings Cross precinct, we are thrilled that as a first step ID scanner usage will be reduced to weekends. We are committed to working with the NSW Government and local stakeholders to deliver a diverse precinct that is safe and provides for the whole community, ahead of the proposed review in 2020.”

As a founding member of the NTIA, Solotel also said welcomes the establishment of the Industry Advisory Group and that the group hopes to play a role in bringing our voice to the table in redeveloping Sydney’s night time economy.

Merivale CEO Justin Hemmes has also welcomed the news, saying: “Today is an incredibly exciting and enormously promising day for our city with the announcement of the NSW Government’s response to the Joint Select Committee and their plan to reignite Sydney’s night-time economy.

“I look forward to working with all stakeholders, including the government and the people of Sydney, in unlocking Sydney’s true potential as a global city we can all be proud of.”

There has been speculation that the rollback would come before Christmas, but with this being what Schlothauer referred to as the ‘silly season’ there is acknowledgement that the 14 January date is a good one.

Small bar operator, and Director of Barrelhouse Group, Mikey Enright, told TheShout: “I think it’s a very sensible move from the Government.

“After six long years of the lock out laws, there has been a cultural change to drinking culture. There is a lot of work to do promoting the night-time Industry and the last thing we need is an incident happening and the mainstream media’s turning it into a horror story.”

Diageo Australia’s Managing Director David Smith hailed saying it will help Sydney to restore its reputation as a leading international tourist destination.

“This is a fantastic result for Sydney. Sydney is one of the greatest cities in the world and today’s announcement recognises the cultural, economic and social importance of a vibrant night-time economy,” said Smith.

“Like any global city, Sydney doesn’t have to compromise vibrancy for safety, they can and should go together.

“With drinking trends changing for the better in recent years, we see consumers trade up and seek out more sophisticated hospitality experiences. Rather than drinking more, people are choosing to drink better. Sydney has some of the best bars and restaurants in the world, along with some of the world’s most talented bartenders and hospitality operators. Today’s announcement re-opens the door for these businesses to flourish.

“I particularly acknowledge the NSW Government’s commitment to removing restrictions on serving cocktails, neat spirit serves and drinks in glass after midnight. Restricting some of the world’s best bars from serving their customers a single nip of Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky – the equivalent of one standard drink – after midnight just never made sense. This had a direct impact on Sydney’s reputation as a global city and I welcome its removal.

“I credit the Premier, the NSW Government and the Joint Committee for showing real leadership on this issue. Most Sydneysiders support a more targeted, common-sense approach that will allow our wonderful city to thrive again.

“We recently announced that Sydney will be the 2020 host of our World Class bartending competition global final and I can’t wait for the world’s best bartending talent to experience our revitalised and dynamic city for themselves. It’s going to be a brilliant celebration of Sydney hospitality and our diverse and vibrant night-time culture.”