Controversial new licensing restrictions have been implemented across the city's CBD this week.
New Sydney licensing laws including lockouts and early bar closures have been enforced for the first time.
The controversial legislation was announced only a month ago to target alcohol-fuelled violence across the CBD. Though it was initially planned for implementation in April, it has been brought forward to this month. As of 12 AM on February 24th, more than 1,000 venues within the designated Sydney entertainment precinct, spanning the entire CBD including Kings Cross and Oxford Street, are subject to 1:30 AM lockouts and a 3 AM cut-off of alcohol service, the only exceptions being small bars (less than 60 capacity), restaurants and casinos. The State Government's move has faced criticism as a hasty reaction to mainstream media pressure following the tragic deaths of two young men, Daniel Christie and Thomas Kelly, who were both punched and killed on the streets of Kings Cross.
While there is no dispute over the need to curb alcohol-related violence and ensure public safety, police statistics indicate a steady decline in such incidents, leading many to question the rushed introduction of the legislation, which also includes mandatory minimum sentencing for a number of alcohol-related offences. There has also been mass outcry from the music industry, with countless venue owners, promoters, DJs, staff and fans concerned about the impact the blanket solution will have on Sydney's nightlife.
Murat Kilic, owner of underground club The Spice Cellar, explains that "our business model has been completely compromised. Despite having never had an alcohol-related violent incident at our venue and catering for peaceful music-focused clientele, we have been hit the hardest by these changes. We been forced to lay off staff immediately and axe some of our nights to save costs literally just to stay solvent." Groups like Save Our Nightlife and Keep Sydney Open have been created with the aim of raising awareness of the expected consequences for the club and live music scenes.
The coming weekend will be the first test of the new regulations and happens to coincide with Mardi Gras, one of Sydney's largest late night events which attracts thousands to the city each year for the Oxford Street parade and accompanying parties. For full information about the new legislation, head to the NSW Government's website.