Lockout Laws: Where Next for Sydney’s Nightlife

Diageo hosted a panel discussion with leading Sydney venue owners and operators to discuss Sydney’s night time economy which has suffered since the introduction of lockout laws in 2014.

Panel discussion
L-R: Nick van Tiel, Martin O’Sullivan, Mikey Enright, Pasan Wijesena, Anthony Prior

David Smith, Managing Director of Diageo Australia introduced the discussion and related his personal experiences with the lockouts including not being able to get a beer as he watched the English Premier League in the early hours.

Nick van Tiel led the discussion panel with Martin O’Sullivan (President NSW Small Bar Association and owner Grasshopper), Mikey Enright (The Barber Shop), Pasan Wijesena (Earl’s Juke Joint) and Anthony Prior (Director, The Keystone Group). Some of the points raised included:

  • Lockout laws have stopped the momentum of growth of small bars whereas 6-7 years ago, local and international bartenders were keen to open a bar. But with the freeze in licencing, it has come to a halt.
  • Sydney has lost its reputation as a vibrant city.
  • Small bars brought creativity to Sydney which at the time had overtaken Melbourne.
  • Premiumisation of drinking was already happening pre-lockout so people were already drinking less and better. Lockouts have removed the choice of going out late, and you can’t even buy a bottle of wine after 10pm if heading for a late dinner or to friends’ place.
  • Phases of lockouts have been reactionary. The upcoming review needs a strong strategic plan and communication plan otherwise it will not succeed.
  • Businesses are adapting in different ways, many now have extended food menus as a major part of the offering.
  • People are not feeling safe out late because of greatly reduced numbers of people on the street and there is no public transport to get people home.

In summation, the panel was asked what they would change if they were Night Mayor of Sydney. Some of the responses included:

  • Making public transport free and available at least every half an hour as Melbourne is currently trialling
  • Harsher penalties for patrons breaking the law
  • Awarding extended licences to good operators, to be earnt gradually and monitored over time
  • Extension in bottle shop opening hours
  • Make kebab shops and other eateries open late again as venues close for the night
  • Make better use of public spaces with outdoor events
  • Have a strategic plan in place to tackle the impact of the lockouts
  • Ensure the media is provided with the correct strategic information

The discussion closed with questions and comments from guests including Tyson Koh of Keep Sydney Open. His advice was to create a united front and fight back to accomplish positive change. Citing Melbourne as an example, he urged the industry to pool funds and resources together and enlist lawyers to fight.

The meeting concluded with Diageo thanking the panellists and guests with a commitment to helping the industry.

The panel discussion was held on Friday 20 May 2016 at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Quayside Room).

Photo Credit: Supplied.


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.