Sydney’s controversial lockout laws will be dramatically rolled back in an effort to strengthen the night-time economy, the NSW Government has announced.
The 1.30am lockouts will be lifted in the CBD entertainment district but will remain in place for Kings Cross.
The legislation was introduced in 2014 with the aim of reducing alcohol-fuelled violence, particularly in Kings Cross, after the two coward-punch deaths of Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie.
In a statement, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the city’s nightlife needs to be resurrected but community safety will always be a major focus.
“It’s time to enhance Sydney’s nightlife,” Ms Bereijklian said.
“Sydney is Australia’s only global city and we need our nightlife to reflect that.”
Ms Berejiklian said there was a need to reinvigorate the night-time economy for the sake of jobs.
The announcement precedes a report due to be released in coming weeks by a joint parliamentary committee into Sydney’s night-time economy.
The change has prompted an outpouring of relief from venue operators.
Oxford Art Factory owner Mark Gerber said “good riddance” and believes the city could now look forward to a rebirth.
“[It felt] like living in East Berlin under Stasi control, not in sunny old Sydney town,” he said.
“Let’s do this Sydney … I’m overjoyed.”
The president of the Australian Medical Association said it was a “poor” choice to roll back such a successful preventative health measure.
“This appears to be the government prioritising a particular business over public health,” Dr Kean-Seng Lim said.
St Vincent’s Hospital at Darlinghurst said the surprise announcement was “incredibly disappointing” and a huge backward step to the “bad old days”.
“We don’t believe the answer to reinvigorating Sydney’s night-life is turning the beer taps on 24/7,” hospital spokesperson David Faktor said.
“We need to be a better society than that.”
Mr Faktor said Ms Berejiklian should be reminded that for every hour alcohol trading is increased, there is a corresponding increase in alcohol harm.
He said it was not fair that it would be the doctors and nurses at St Vincent’s who “pick up the pieces”.
The St Vincent’s submission to the parliamentary committee last month said the constant flow of injured to the Emergency Department was like a “conveyor belt of carnage” pre-lockout laws.
The inquiry received a massive 792 submissions and heard from professional musicians, club and bar owners and health professionals.
Veteran singer Jenny Morris told the committee Sydney had become a “laughing stock”, but St Vincent’s Hospital said it had not seen one alcohol-related assault death since the laws rolled out.
When former premier Barry O’Farrell introduced the sweeping changes, he said they were tough but he made “no apologies”.
The NSW Police Association said the measures were exactly what the city of Sydney needed.
Lockout measures introduced to Newcastle in 2008, combined with a curfew, resulted in a 36 per cent drop in assaults.