Live events sector
The independent report into Sydney’s controversial ‘Lock Out’ laws by former High Court judge Ian Callinan has recommended a two-year trial in which the 1.30am lockout and 3am last drinks measures are relaxed for live entertainment venues. Easing those restrictions by half-an-hour could help restore the vibrancy and lost employment opportunities in the precincts affected by the laws Callinan said in his report. The previous O’Farrell government introduced the laws in 2014, following a series of fatal one-punch attacks and other violence.
NSW state premier Mike Baird said he was pleased the review had confirmed the laws had reduced alcohol-related violence in the CBD and Kings Cross area. He said the government would consult with Mr Callinan and the industry to clarify a clear definition of live entertainment venues, including whether it should include recorded music or DJs.
Opponents of the lockout laws had hoped the Report would prove their claim that the measures passed by the New South Wales government in 2014 had pretty much killed Sydney’s nightlife. The laws were originally passed in an effort to end alcohol-fuelled violence in Sydney’s key nightlife areas, such as Kings Cross.
Callinan acknowledged the adverse effect the lockout laws had had on bar staff and live entertainers, but couldn’t put a figure on it. “There has been unquantifiable adverse impact on live entertainment, profits and employment opportunities in the Precincts,” he wrote.
The report suggested the lockout and last drinks times should be relaxed for a trial period of two years at venues where “live entertainment is being generally continuously offered.”
However, the report called for a clarification of what should be defined as “live entertainment,” with Callinan pointing out that anyone employed to play recorded music needed to bring an additional “creative element, otherwise it would be easy to evade the operation of the laws.”
In other words, some person operating iTunes on a computer should not be treated the same as a DJ mixing music as part of a venue’s “live entertainment” offering.
Critics of the law had suggested the lockouts had simply moved crowds to other parts of the city, while shuttering businesses in key entertainment precincts.
The report didn’t find this to be the case, stating the displacement to other areas of Sydney (including the Star Casino) had been minor. It did note crowds were generally going out later than they had in the past and that the lockouts had done little to change the times people start and finish their night. Venues who had tried to adapt to earlier hours had done so unsuccessfully.
“The lockout has reduced opportunities to visit and revisit different venues, meet different people and enjoy different entertainment at them, and, in combination with the cessation of service at 3am, has reduced the consumption of alcohol in the Precincts,” Callinan wrote.
Callinan also recommended the state-wide ban on selling alcohol after 10 p.m. be pushed to 11 p.m., with home deliveries pushed to midnight — a source of contention for regional politicians with te report saying “The sale of takeaway alcohol, whether before or after 10pm, makes little or no contribution to violence and anti-social behaviour in the Precincts, even less so when it is home delivered”.