A tough set of reforms are set to be imposed on Sydney’s ‘entertainment precinct’ this weekend and drastically affecting the city’s live music scene as part of a government crackdown on alcohol related violence.
The new liquor licensing reforms, which apply to an expanded section of the Sydney CDB stretching from Darling Harbour To Kings Cross (as seen in the map below), include 1:30 am lockouts on licensed venues, a cease on serving alcohol by 3am, and a statewide enforcement that bottle shops close their doors by 10pm.
Despite the strict changes only being proposed last week by NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, an overnight report from News Ltd states that the legislation has been successfully rushed through parliament and “are set to be enforced this weekend in Sydney.”
Premier O’Farrell said the new laws would “make our streets safer” and managed to swiftly pass the bills through the upper house on Thursday night, despite opposition from Labor, The Greens, and independent MP Alex Greenwich.
Demonstrating the speed of the successful introduction of the reforms, according to InTheMix, Mr Greenwich says he was given a briefing from the government on the reforms just an hour before the bills were introduced to parliament. “Normal parliamentary process was abandoned to prevent scrutiny of the legislation and time for debate,” says the Independent MP. Premier O’Farrell said the new laws would “make our streets safer” and managed to swiftly pass the bills through the upper house on Thursday night.
“The new measures are tough and I make no apologies for that,” said the NSW Premier previously of the new crackdown on late night trading in a bid to curb the wave of alcohol-related violence in Sydney’s CBD.
Along with the earlier closing times for bottle shops and 1.30am lock-outs, the new measures include a eight-year minimum sentence for similarly fatal alcohol or drug-fuelled assaults, and increasing the maximum penalty for assault by two years.
UPDATE: It’s since been confirmed by a statement from the NSW Premier’s office that the legislation that goes into effect this weekend only applies to the ‘king-hit’ assault laws and mandatory minimum sentencing, while the laws on 1:30am lockouts, 10pm drink curfews, and liquor reforms will come into effect in April 2014
The mandatory minimum sentences directly address the issue that’s gripped the media spotlight since the death of teenager Daniel Christie on New Years from a fatal one-punch ‘coward’ assault in Kings Cross.
The Government crackdown may have slipped through Parliament successfully, but live music supporters and industry are taking a stand against the new measures, including the formation of the Sydney Late Night Culture Alliance, with a mission statement to ‘Keep Sydney Open!’
The new Alliance includes Sydney-based music organisations, including representatives of state body MusicNSW, community radio FBi, venues GoodGod Small Club and Oxford Art Factory, as well as music media TheMusic, InTheMix, and SLAM, as The Music Network reports.
The Sydney Late Night Culture Alliance is hosting a community forum – following the first weekend of O’Farrell’s new legislation – on Monday 3rd February to allow the music sector to voice its disapproval on the restrictive reforms; to be held from 6pm at Sydney’s Metro Theatre in George Street.
(Image: A map showing the proposed Sydney CBD Entertainment precinct. Source: NSW Government)
The live music venue crackdown has a dreaded sense of déjà vu to them.
In July 2012, the death of teenager Thomas Kelly in a senseless attack in Kings Cross sparked intense scrutiny of Sydney’s nightlife, as the issue of alcohol-related violence became a political platform for pokie-lined pub venues and politicians alike with Premier O’Farrell looking to introduce a 1am or 2am venue lockout to the CBD among a ream of restrictions.
Sydney’s live music scene fought back, accusing the Government of bad policy in their response to the issue of late-night violence, claiming the crackdown measures would cost them over $1 million a month in lost revenue.
Sydney’s live music venues then went on to face a very difficult 2013 before political support and Sydney City Council pushed for a seachange with the introduction of a “groundbreaking” plan to revitalise the city’s ailing cultural scene last November and gaining the support of many local musicians.
In recent months, theres even been a few new venues cropping up, including the 550-capacity bandroom at The Roller Den and the basement-based venue The Factory Floor, while the legendary live music pub, The Annandale Hotel, is currently out of action as it undergoes a major face-lift after its new owners unceremoniously cancelled all future gigs due to renovations last month.
(Photo: Andrew Linturn. Source: Wolfmother @ Oxford Art Factory)