Concerns over 1.30am pub lockouts
There are concerns measures to be introduced by the NSW Government such as lockouts and a ban on alcohol service for pubs and clubs in the CBD will shift incidents of alcohol-fuelled violence to other parts of Sydney, and inadvertently affect responsible business owners.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has unveiled tough new restrictions in a bid to curb alcohol-related violence in the Sydney CBD. These include a mandatory 1.30am lockout for licensed venues with alcohol service ceasing at 3am.
The changes will apply to an expanded Sydney CBD entertainment zone which takes in the precincts of Circular Quay, The Rocks, Kings Cross, Haymarket and Darlinghurst.
Independent Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich expressed concern the changes could potentially move the problems elsewhere.
“Lockouts and early closure should be considered, but inner city lockouts and earlier closing may shift the problems to the suburbs, the streets and illegal parties,” Greenwich said.
Greenwich suggested the new measure should be subject to a six-month review.
“Many young people in my electorate and in the LGBTI community say they go to well-run venues late at night without causing problems and are being unfairly punished by these changes.
“They are concerned that the restrictions don’t target problems and penalise those who go out late wanting a safe and fun night out.”
As part of the measures, a statewide closing time of 10pm will apply to all bottle shops and risk-based licensing will be introduced for some venues.
Greens NSW MP John Kaye said the new restriction on liquor stores will do little to address the problem, accusing the NSW Government of opting for “high profile, lower impact solutions”.
“The profits of the major bottle shop owners will be largely untouched by the Premier’s proposal,” Kaye said.
“Preloading will continue unabated from bottle shops that will feel like they dodged a bullet today.
"While Premier Barry O'Farrell has stood up to the small number of irresponsible venue owners in the CBD and Kings Cross, he has left the bulk of the alcohol industry largely free to reap massive profits from deep discounting, dangerous promotions and increased outlet densities.”
Kaye added that "risk-based licencing is a step forward but without tougher restrictions on promotions and a curb to the number of outlets, it will have little impact on industry practices".
"The details are not yet available, but annual licence fees that are tiny compared to the venue's takings will have no effect on behaviour.
“The industry has lobbied its way out of any restrictions on shopper dockets, deep discounting, sporting sponsorship and other promotions which are proven to increase harmful consumption of alcohol.”
The Australian Hotels Association said it welcomed the tough new penalties for fatal one-punch assaults involving alcohol and drugs which will now carry and mandatory minimum sentence of eight years.
But it said it remained sceptical about the effectiveness of the lockouts and stopping alcohol service at 3am – the same time of the taxi changeover.
“We do not believe tens of thousands of people will stay in licensed premises past 3am once alcohol is no longer served but instead will be out on the street looking for a way home – the government will need to address this new issue,” the AHA said in a statement.
The measures will see free buses leaving every ten minutes from Kings Cross to the CBD on Friday and Saturday nights.
The AHA added the lockouts and closure will have an impact on the city’s night time economy, “penalising businesses that are well run and have nothing to do with the recent violence”.
David Cass, coordinator of the Surry Hills Liquor Accord, which represents licensed premises and patrons in areas such as Surry Hills and Darlinghurst including Oxford Street, said: “It is regrettable that the NSW Government has been forced, because of the actions of a few louts, to introduce such harsh measures which will savagely impact jobs and take-home pay of bar staff, and the viability of many business undertakings due to reduced trading hours”.
“It is equally unfortunate that the restrictions will personally affect those who patronise the Oxford Street precinct given that – according to local police – crime and anti-social behaviour in the area is at an all time historic low.”
Cass said licensed premises owners and management expressed dismay that the Premier's announcement appeared to fall short of providing an increased and constant police presence to deter unwanted behaviour on the streets in those areas where the need was well known.
The Police Association of NSW welcomed the new measures, saying they were exactly what Sydney needed.
“Every weekend we are forced to pick up the pieces, phone parents and even deal with becoming the victims of violence and abuse ourselves,” said Police Association President, Scott Weber.
“Now we see the Government taking real action in dealing with alcohol related violence.”
Weber said the proposed changes “is a win for the community and for all police officers who protect the community”.