Lockouts 2015


It is clear to the Darlinghurst Business Partnership that, after one year of enforcement, the N.S.W. Government’s licensed venue lockout laws are anti-competitive and put lie to the Aussie notion of a ‘fair go’ for all. Whilst conceived with the best intentions, they are a poorly designed, knee-jerk reaction that threatens the growth and development of Sydney’s tourist, retail, knowledge and night-time economies.

If the N.S.W. Liberal Government genuinely believes that these laws are a successful and positive strategy for creating a sustainable social, cultural and economic environment, then the Darlinghurst Business Partnership calls on them to create a level playing field for all businesses across N.S.W. by expanding the laws state-wide without delay, because at the present time the laws are having and will continue to have negative cultural and economic outcomes for entire communities to the benefit of neighbouring communities.

The DBP does not believe that the lockout laws are positive or successful, in that they fail to address the issues they purport to, but more broadly, that their knock-on effects are severe and wide-ranging. These include but are not limited to the economy and according to accounts from local businesses in the Darlinghurst area it is not just the night-time economy that is suffering. Based on reports from its members, the DBP has reason to believe that all sectors of the of the local economy impacted by the lockout laws are suffering up to 40% loss of overall revenue. Not small change considering that Sydney’s ‘Village’ businesses contribute $25 billion annually to the State economic output.[1]

This loss of revenue and, consequently, employment opportunity, will only be exacerbated when the new annual state license fees are introduced in the next month. Not only does small business employ 80% of the people in the Sydney Local Government Area[2], but they are integral to the culture, community and liveability of the city, enhancing the wellbeing of residents and workers and it is small business in particular that will be least able to withstand further economic shocks. The current lockout laws and new licensing fees discourage investment, visitation and employment (especially youth employment) across all sectors and times of day, in one of Sydney’s most popular and globally-recognised urban areas.

If N.S.W, and Sydney in particular, wishes to remain competitive then licensing regulations and fees must foster sustainable cultural environments; they must explicitly recognise and support the role that smaller venues and live music venues play in diversifying the Sydney’s economic and cultural life. The role that these establishments play in attracting and supporting Sydney’s creative and knowledge communities cannot be ignored because these groups are key to unlocking value in Sydney’s visitor economy.

As such, the DBP believes that much more nuanced regulatory environment needs to be created, one that rewards and encourages responsible conduct while penalising negative or irresponsible conduct. More broadly, we must find a way to move beyond legislating for all based on the lowest common denominator. Societal problems must be addressed directly and not through the blunt instrument of blanket regulation. And these licensing laws cannot exist in isolation. Future legislation should incorporate a much wider policy framework, one that includes:

· Development Control Plans that specifically recognise, cater to and support inner city, urban, creative cultural precincts.
· Agent of Change principles such as those successfully adopted by the City of Melbourne.
· Higher standards of acoustic insulation in residential developments
· An increase in capacity of small bars to foster the creation of more financially sustainable diverse night-time venues.
· Default late night trading hours for licensed premises (without the burden of punitive licensing fees), retail businesses and entertainment venues, in cultural and creative urban precincts, to create both jobs for young people and inspirational social environments to stimulate idea generation and diversity within the creative community.

If the N.S.W. State Liberal government does not see any need for an overhaul of the current licensing regulations then, in the interest of economic fairness, the restrictions must be implemented across the entire state. While the DBP believes that punitive, lowest common denominator legislation is not the solution to anything, we must stand for the needs and interests of our local small business community.


[1] Pp15, http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/156525/Draft-Economic-Development-Strategy.pdf

[2] Ibid, pp50.