Small bars central to Sydney’s revival

02 October, 2019 by Andy Young

Earlier this week the Joint Select Committee on Sydney’s Night Time Economy published its report with 40 recommendations on reviving Sydney’s night life. One key part of the report focused on how Sydney’s small bars can help bring an inclusive and diverse ambiance to the night. Here’s what Bars and Clubs had to say about that.

Since May this year a Joint Select Committee of the NSW Government has been listening to testimony and working through submissions regarding Sydney’s night time economy.

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Sydney’s nightlife is failing, yes some venues are succeeding but foot traffic is down, revenues are largely down and it feels like there is a general lack of confidence in having a great night out in Sydney. It’s a travesty.

So the Committee was convened to take a holistic approach to the city’s night time economy. This is not just about getting people into bars and pubs, it’s not about getting people drinking more, it’s about getting people to go out at night. Give people the confidence that there is a better option than food delivery and TV bingeing.

This week saw the Committee publish its report with recommendations for the NSW Government to give the night time economy the kick up the backside that it needs. The report carries 40 recommendations for the Government. From improving lighting and streetscapes to safe taxi zones, and from extended public transport running times to making Government office spaces open for ‘creative pop-ups’ showcasing art and creativity.

The incredible small bar scene in Sydney has also been recognised: the work bar owners and operators have done in creating an exciting scene for Sydneysiders and visitors in spite of all the regulations in place.

A SOPHISTICATED AND UNIQUE OPTION

Indeed, the report has a dedicated section titled “Making Small Bars More Attractive” and as Karl Schlothauer the President of the Independent Bars Association says, this should mean exciting times ahead for Sydney’s small bar scene.

“This a massive step into restoring the vibrancy into the NSW night time economy,” Schlothauer told Bars and Clubs.

In looking to make small bars more attractive, the report said: “Small bars are an example of a licensed venues which expand the options available in the night time economy. According to the NSW Small Business Commission there are many small bars in Sydney that offer a ‘genuinely bespoke aesthetic and ambience.’

“They are viewed as adding a sophisticated and unique option for patrons wanting a smaller or more ‘low tempo’ venue.

“An example of a small bar that was brought to the attention of the Committee is the Shirt Bar in Barangaroo, where patrons are able to buy high-end cocktails, while being fitted for a custom shirt. This kind of innovative, boutique offering supports the development of a diverse night-time economy.”

To help boost small bars, the Committee has made a number of recommendations, including:

  • Increase the patron limit on small bar licences to 130;
  • Increase standard hours of operating under the small bar licence to 2.00am;
  • Remove ‘rule of thumb’ requirements for small bar licences, for example one security guard per 100 persons;
  • Remove high risk licence fees for later trading from these low risk venues.

It’s positive news all around and Schlothauer added: “Small bars are big players in Sydney’s night time economy.

“It’s great to see that our voices have been heard throughout this inquiry and the Committee has recognised the positive contribution we have made to improving late-night hospitality and entertainment for Sydney.

“Increasing the capacity limit will allow some of our members operating on a General Bar / PSA license to jump ship to small bar license and trade later into night not previously possible within the liquor licence freeze precinct and ditch the post-midnight drink restrictions.

“With the removal ‘rule of thumb requirements’ like one security guard per 100 patrons. This will allow our members to become more commercial viable and re-invest that money into things like live entertainment programs, new and innovative guest experiences and potentially more unique and tailored venues.”

For more on the Committee’s plans, how small bars can change Kings Cross, as well as the thoughts of Barrelhouse Group Director, Mikey Enright and Night Time Industries Association Chair, Michael Rodrigues, head to the Bars and Clubs website.