Three years after being implemented, the lockout laws in Sydney’s CBD have seen a dramatic impact on the city’s drinking habits and nightlife culture, and multiple businesses have had to close. The questions that linger in many Sydney-sider’s minds are: have these laws been effective and what’s next for our city’s nightlife?
Since the introduction of the laws in 2014, the CBD, in particular Kings Cross has seen a decline in crime and foot traffic. According to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, assaults in Kings Cross are down almost 50 per cent in the 32 months since the changes came into effect.
But it came at a cost – the once bustling entertainment hub has seen 40 clubs shut down and a drop in foot traffic in the district by 82 per cent last year.
“It’s not helping the drinking culture…they’re all out on the streets”, said Megan Elphinstone, a Sydney nightlife local. I sat down at her favourite venue, Frankie’s Pizza, located at the heart of the city. She told me about her experience of binge drinking, the youth of today and the decreasing live music scene.
“The city has adapted to the lockouts…nowadays everyone just turns into a dickhead because they’re downing vodka,” she exclaims.
The phenomena colloquially termed ‘pre-drinking’ or ‘pre’s’ (as the cool kids say) is predominant amongst young people and has been alarmingly synonymous with going out. “The goal is to get as drunk as you can (before you get) to the venue”, she explains.
At the outskirts of the CBD, nearby Newtown has seen an increasing traffic of activity as clubbers seek the lockout-exempted King Street. Pedestrian traffic has jumped by 42 per cent between 2012 and 2015, according to the City of Sydney council. Recently, the laws were subject to an independent review. As a result, 20 venues have had the laws “relaxed” this year, allowing doors to be open 30 minutes later until 2:00 AM instead of 1:30 AM.
NSW Racing Minister Paul Tool said, “what we are seeing in NSW…is that if people are going out and doing the right thing and people can go and enjoy a drink with their friends and still feel safe, we will continue to look at relaxing the lockout laws.”
The reception has been mixed. Jonno Seidler from Keep Sydney Open (KSO) described it as “a baby step”.
The organisation had recently changed their operations into a communications model rather than portraying themselves as anti-state government. “We want to sit at the table,” said Seidler, emphasizing that KSO wants to now start developing policies and work with the government to ensure a safe and vibrant nightlife for Sydney.
As more venues reopen, a glimmer of hope shines on the city’s entertainment industry. Venues like the newly reopened Lansdowne, Holey Moley (formerly Newtown Social Club) are indications that Sydney’s nightlife will find ways to survive as we adjust to changes in legislation.