After 176 venues shut down, Gladys Berejiklian will review Sydney's controversial lockout laws

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A cross-parliamentary committee will review Sydney’s night-time economy, including the controversial lockout laws, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced.

The “Joint Select Committee on Sydney’s Night Time Economy” will consult with police, health, community, and entertainment and live music stakeholders.

The committee will then report to Parliament by the end of September, and advise whether regulatory changes should be made to boost Sydney’s night-time economy, while maintaining community safety.

“We have always sought to strike a balance between limiting alcohol-related violence and maintaining a vibrant night time economy,” said Ms Berejiklian.

“Since the government introduced new laws in 2014 in response to shocking cases of alcohol-fuelled violence, the number of non-domestic violent assaults have declined in the Sydney CBD entertainment and Kings Cross precincts.

“During this period, we have also worked to relax certain aspects of the laws, such as extending trading hours for bars and clubs for major events, and making it easier for small bars, restaurants and cafes to start up and operate.

“After five years of operation, it makes sense for us to now take stock and examine whether any further changes should be made.”

In 2016, Freelancer chief executive Matt Barrie lambasted the state government’s policies in a viral LinkedIn article titled “Would the last person in Sydney please turn the lights out?”

“Every week, another venue or restaurant closes. The soul of the city has been destroyed,” Mr Barrie wrote. “Kings Cross, in particular, has been decimated so badly that it will never, ever, come back as an entertainment precinct.”

As at May 2018, there had been a net loss of 176 Sydney venues since the introduction of lockout laws, including landmark venues such as Hugos Lounge in Kings Cross and The Flinders Hotel in Darlinghurst.

A 2019 Deloitte Access Economics report found that Sydney was missing out on about $16 billion a year because its night-time economy was underdeveloped.

The report noted that while the lockout laws were a factor, a range of sectors would need to expand services after dark including arts and culture, retail and entertainment for Sydney’s night-time economy to fulfil its potential.

“A vibrant night-time economy creates a range of opportunities for providers and users; from 24-hour gyms and supermarkets to late-night art galleries, to extended shopping and transport choices,” the report said.

This story originally appeared on the Australian Financial Review. Read the original here.

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