Lockouts four months on: Violence up, business down
SYDNEY: Four months on, violence is up on the streets and businesses are suffering as a result of the lockout laws, writes Jonny Marsh.
In any other situation it might be appropriate to say ‘I told you so’. But as venues feel the bite of the new lockout laws, reveling in the truth behind our collective predictions offers little solace from the stark reality of a more tightly controlled, restricted and shrinking gay scene in Sydney.
As we hit month four of the new licensing laws, introduced in response to the deaths of Daniel Christie and Thomas Kelly, the latest data on public disorder offences makes for interesting reading. It shows that the draconian conditions have stalled long term trends towards decreasing violence in the CBD, whilst imposing incredibly challenging trading conditions on bars and clubs in the district. Venues are reducing trading hours, bars are closing, clubs are being put up for sale, entertainment is being reduced, and DJs, drag performers and bar boys are losing hours of work. And all this without making Sydney’s nightlife any safer.
The new data, released last week by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, shows that whilst violence in licensed premises has dropped sharply since the introduction of the lockouts, violence on the streets has doubled in the last month as the reality of the 1.30am lock out and 3am flashpoint for last drinks sets in. In March there were just six violent attacks in the Kings Cross area, whilst one month after the lock outs, that figure rises to 45, nearly half of those being alcohol-related.
The figures prove we were right all along to think that the venues are indeed capable of managing their patrons safety, and that pushing people onto the streets doesn’t reduce violence in the area, it actually makes it worse.
To add insult to injury, we can see that street violence in both the CBD and Kings Cross areas had been going down in the two-year period before the lock outs were introduced. Assaults in Kings Cross were down 30 per cent. Violence in the CBD was down by 15 per cent, compared to a smaller 5.6 per cent decline across NSW. And the long period covered by the new statistics means the effects of the new laws cannot be considered as a factor in the new data.
“We have continuing falls on licensed premises, but the drop in outside-of-premise assaults seems to have stalled,” said Don Weatherburn, director of the Bureau of Crime Statistics.
Meanwhile domestic violence has been rising – with 2.5% more cases reported in the same period. Perhaps something should be done about this – rather than targeting an issue already on the decline.
A further issue has been an increase in pedestrians being hit by cars in the area, as people rush to gain entry to their venue of choice before being locked out for the night, then again as they are pushed onto the streets en masse at 3am.
Even the Murdoch-owned Daily Telegraph, which has long pressed for tougher action and more restrictions on licensing, and played a considerable part in creating the media panic which brought about the lock outs, is now asking the question of whether the new licensing laws have gone too far. They counted 30 new ‘For Lease’ signs popping up in the Cross and cite venues claiming from 35 to 70 per cent reductions in revenue. So is the tide of public opinion finally turning against the laws?
Regardless of what we think, the government continues to press forward with another deluge of laws coming into play mid-July. No shots, no premixed drinks, no drinks promotions, no large quantities of drinks sold over the bar between 1an-3am. Another hurdle to jump over for those venues struggling with reduced revenues. And another annoyance for those of us who want to enjoy a responsible Saturday night out on the town.
Whilst we wait to see if we’re stuck with these new laws forever the message to the gay community should be loud and clear – if you value your scene bars and clubs – get out and support them.
Jonny Marsh is a DJ and club promoter from London, now living in Sydney. Follow him on Twitter @DJ_Jonny_M