After receiving attention from dozens of high-profile Australian musicians, thousands of Sydney residents turned out to the Keep Sydney Open rally to protest the city’s controversial lockout laws on Sunday.

According to News Corp, the crowd consisted mostly of young people with the occasional Baby Boomer or small child. They all marched in solidarity to protest the divisive laws which have decimated Sydney’s nightlife.

The peaceful but passionate rally marched along Elizabeth St and made its way towards Hyde Park, stopping outside several venues which had closed as a result of the devastating effects of the lockout laws.

In addition to the incredible turnout, the protest saw speeches from Nina Las Vegas, The Preatures frontwoman Isabella Manfredi, and Dave Faulkner of The Hoodoo Gurus, and performances from Art vs Science and Royal Headache.

15,000 Protestors Turned Out

More than 15,000 protestors turned out to oppose the lockout laws, sending a clear message to the government that their constituents are not happy with the way things have been going and that “late nights can be safe nights”.

There was a strong turnout from those working in the hospitality industry, including former and current business owners, as well as artists and musicians, who all banded together in packs under their fallen business names.

Addressing the crowd, DJ and triple j personality Nina Las Vegas lamented the loss of jobs, underemployment for young people, and lack of opportunities for future generations of artists precipitated by the lockouts.

“Y​ou can’t expect an Olympic swimmer to win gold without pools, right?” Las Vegas asked during her speech, reiterating a point she previously made in an impassioned Facebook post that the lockouts are “destroying Sydney nightlife”.

Live Music Contributes $400 million To NSW’s Economy

During his own speech, Faulkner recounted several pivotal moments from his career, explaining that the venues in which he and his band got their start would not be able to operate under the current lockout laws.

Faulkner quoted a 2011 Ernst and Young study, which reported “live music in bars, pubs and clubs in NSW contributed nearly $400 million dollars to the state’s economy, with a net flow on of $200 million into the wider community”.

40% Decline In Ticket Sales

As Tone Deaf recently reported, new data collected by APRA-AMCOS, the Australian royalties collection body, revealed that ticket sales by live performance venues in the Sydney CBD have declined by 40 percent.

This, coupled with an 80 percent drop in foot traffic in lockout-affected areas, has resulted in the closure of 42 venues, bars, cafes, nightclubs, and restaurants. Gig attendance overall is down 19 percent.

“​B​esides placing an unreasonable burden on music venues” Faulkner concluded in his speech, “this is a huge loss to the State’s economy.” Photos from the rally show protestors banding under the flags of fallen venues like Goodgod Small Club.

But Two Thirds of NSW residents Want Lockouts To Stay

Despite the incredible turnout at the Keep Sydney Open rally, the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education’s (FARE) recent Galaxy poll indicated an overwhelming majority of NSW residents want to keep the lockout laws.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, when respondents were asked, laws enforcing a 3am closing time (80 percent), 1am lockouts (66 percent), and 10pm bottle shop closures (63 percent) received strong support.

Despite this, alternative policies to deal with alcohol-fuelled violence were given even greater support, such as harsher penalties (86 percent), CCTV at venues (85 percent), increased police numbers (82 percent), and more public transport (81 percent).

Photos by Paul Thompson

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