It’s been a long time coming, Sydney. Earlier this morning, on Tuesday 9 February, the NSW Government revealed that Sydney’s extra controversial lockout laws will finally be scrapped for good, starting from next month.
Lockouts were introduced in Sydney seven years ago—a suite of curfews and bar cut-off times that, statistically speaking, served their purpose and curbed late-night violence in the city.
But there’s always more to the stats: a heap of businesses closed (about 176 venues), the city lost a whole lot of potential profit from nighttime industries and tourism (about $16 billion), visitors to Kings Cross halved, and crime seemed to shift over to areas just outside the lockout zone (reported incidents rose by 17% in Bondi, Newtown, Double Bay, and Coogee).
Merivale boss Justin Hemmes called the lockouts “embarrassing” (apparently there was a time Madonna got locked out of Ivy for her own afterparty), and when The Economist listed Sydney as the third most liveable city in the world in 2020, as a city—collectively we scoffed. A city without a living, breathing nightlife, is a city without a soul.
In November of 2019, Gladys Berejiklian announced that she would be repealing Sydney’s controversial lockout laws—a slice of news that saw the city’s creative community breathe a sigh of relief. "It's time to enhance Sydney's nightlife… we need to step it up," Berejiklian said in a statement to the AAP. "Sydney is Australia's only global city and we need our nightlife to reflect that."
And, in January 2020, lockout laws were dropped in the CBD and Oxford Street, and bottle shops across NSW were allowed to operate until midnight Monday through Saturday, and 11pm on Sundays. But even then, "high risk" Kings Cross kept its curfew—that is, until now.
From Monday 8 March, you will be able to head into Kings Cross bars, pubs, and nightclubs after 1.30am, and order drinks—shots, slushie margaritas, whatever your poison—until 3.30am. Those pesky ID scanners will stay in place, however, for added safety.
"Kings Cross has transformed considerably since these laws were introduced over six years ago," Berejiklian said today. "The precinct is now well-positioned to continue to evolve into a vibrant lifestyle and cultural destination with a diverse mix of small bars, live music venues, and restaurants."
It's a move that makes sense in the wake of COVID-19 and the havoc wreaked across Sydney's hospitality industry in 2020. But it's also a very necessary shift as the NSW Government gears up to implement its ambitious 24-hour economy strategy, pushing for Sydney to be an iconic international city, Australia's very own "Emerald City" if you like, and our number one tourist destination.
For now, we look forward to welcoming a new era of nightlife in Kings Cross.
Image credit: James Adams