The introduction of tough new curfews and lockouts that will affect Sydney’s live music scene have already seen the local music industry rallying against the raft of liquor licensing reforms rushed through parliament late last month.

The strict legislative changes, which include 1:30am lockouts, 3am last drinks, and statewide closure of bottle shops from 10pm, will officially come into force on Monday 24th February, with Premier Barry O’Farrell stating last week, “I expect the vast majority of venues will do the right thing and implement the new trading conditions without incident.”

But Sydney’s rocking live music scene won’t go so gently into that good night, and now MusicNSW – the state’s key music industry body – has rung the call to arms harder and louder, declaring that the O’Farrell administration’s tough new measures will not only suffocate Sydney’s blossoming music scene, but risk snuffing it out entirely, as Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Speaking at a community forum addressing the imminent lockout and mandatory minimum sentencing laws, MusicNSW’s Kirsty Brown articulated the frustrations of many present when she warned; “A freeze on licenses will stifle growth at a crucial time when live venues are known to reduce violence.”

There are 143 licensed pubs, hotels, and clubs that classify as live music venues that fall within the jurisdiction of the proposed ‘Sydney Entertainment Precinct’ (see map below) and the changes. Those 143 venues represent a mere 6% of the city’s 2,200+ registered liquor licensed venues (as City Of Sydney’s “groundbreaking”action plan from last year points out). “We don’t want live music venues to close because they’ve been lumped in with venues whose sole purpose is to sell booze”

Taking place at Sydney’s Metro Theatre on Monday 3rd February, the community forum was organised by InTheMix – who along with MusicNSW, community radio FBi, venues GoodGod Small Club and Oxford Art Factory, and 33 other local music organisations, forms part of the Sydney Late Night Culture Alliance, whose mission statement is to ‘Keep Sydney Open!’

In front of the packed gathering of venue operators, musicians, DJs, club owners, stakeholders, and inner city residents, the MusicNSW exec rightly questioned why the music venue minority are being punished for the issues of the larger pokie-fuelled beer barns of the Sydney CBD.

“We don’t want live music venues to close because they’ve been lumped in with venues whose sole purpose is to sell booze,” says Ms Brown (who you might recall for proudly speaking out about the dominance of males in the Aussie music industry).

Brown illustrated how the lockouts would have a particularly disastrous effect on late-night venues whose dance music, DJ tours, and club night scene were their lifeblood, including Oxford Arts Factory, GoodGod Small Club, and The Spice Cellar – who also had representatives present at the InTheMix forum.

The Spice Cellar’s co-owner, Murat Kilic, explained how he’d already cancelled a new late night event at the Martin Place venue and was being forced to make staff cuts due to the new laws’ affect on his business.

Along with Sydney’s dance subculture, Ms Brown cautioned how the O’Farrell administration were threatening the burgeoning wave of new talent that the city had produced in recent in years. “The Sydney sound is a sound worth saving … and we are taking away [musicians] opportunities with these laws”, she added; name-checking Sydney success stories like Flume, Royal Headache, and The Preatures. “You don’t know who the next Paul Kelly is going to be… If you suffocate these people, and this is what will happen [with the lockout laws], you will lose musicians.”

In fact, The Preatures frontwoman Isabella ‘Izzy’ Manfredi was also on hand to share Brown’s concerns; wondering aloud “why the grassroots cultural venues are being punished when big venues like The Star are exempt?”

While the singer for the locally-bred, internationally-renowned five-piece admitted that Sydney needed to address the rising wave of alcohol-rated violence, “punishing live music venues and musicians is not the answer,” said Manfredi, also echoing Brown’s concerns that the next generation of Sydney musicians could be wiped out.

“You don’t know who the next Paul Kelly is going to be, or who will write about what it’s like to live in Australia. If you suffocate these people, and this is what will happen [with the lockout laws], you will lose musicians.”

Where all parties – both for and against – seemed to agree, was that the new ‘last drinks’, lockouts, minimum sentencing, and venue crackdown were a knee-jerk reaction to curbing the wave of alcohol-related violence in Sydney’s CBD

“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 that’s gripped the Government’s attention since the death of teenager Daniel Christie on New Years from a fatal one-punch ‘coward’ assault in Kings Cross.

“The NSW Government makes no apologies for these tough measures,” said NSW Premier O’Farrell last month. “Businesses and patrons will need to adjust to the changes because improving the safety and amenity of the CBD is in everyone’s interests,”

The NSW Government is working with NSW Police and OLGR inspectors to enforce the new lockouts and ‘last drinks’ when they come into effect on Monday 24th February; “their job will be made much easier with full cooperation from venues and patrons,” Mr O’Farrell added.

(Photo: Liam Cameron. Source: Miami Horror @ Oxford Art Factory)

(Image: A map showing the proposed Sydney CBD Entertainment precinct. Source: NSW Government)

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