KEEP SYDNEY OPEN: Thousands rally to protest against Sydney's lockout laws

Photo: Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images.

Thousands of people gathered in Sydney yesterday to protest against the city’s lockout laws.

The Keep Sydney Open rallies began at midday in Belmore Park in Sydney “in response to the growing discontent with the State Government’s lockout laws and the negative effect they are having on Sydney”.

The crowd made its way into the CBD with a tribute “to all the closed venues, small businesses and jobs lost since the lockouts” before gathering for speeches and live music at Hyde Park.

The Last Drinks coalition which represents doctors, nurses, paramedics and police officers throughout NSW delivered an address yesterday morning before the rallies.

“These laws have saved lives. This isn’t about stopping people from having a good time; this is about making sure that people get home safely at the end of the night,” said spokesman and doctor Tony Sara.

“To reverse that would be a travesty and would put innocent lives at risk.”

The protesters are seeking:

  • Removal of the 1:30am lockout
  • 3am cease of service exemptions for licensed premises that are predominantly live music venues
  • An end to the new licence freeze for predominantly live music venues and small bars
  • The lifting of restrictions on retail hours
  • Late-night public transport, like in Melbourne
  • The introduction of a Night Mayor, like in Amsterdam and Berlin
  • An invitation from government to discuss next steps in partnership with those whose livelihoods depend on the music and cultural industries thriving in Sydney
  • Police to work with not against the responsible venues who provide safe nights out in a global city
Photo: Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images.

The rallies comes ahead of a review headed by High Court judge Ian Callinan QC into the current legislation and its impact on local businesses in Sydney as well as crime rates.

Sydney’s current alcohol laws state that there is a 1.30am lockout at venues including registered clubs, nightclubs, hotels and licensed karaoke bars with no drinks to be purchased after 3am. The rules apply throughout the Sydney CBD Entertainment Precinct which spans from Surry Hills and Darlinghurst to The Rocks, and from Kings Cross to Cockle Bay.

Other laws include a temporary 48-hour ban for “troublemakers”, 10pm cutoff time to purchase takeaway drinks from bottle shops, hotels and clubs as well as a two year freeze on approvals for new and existing liquor licenses.

“The Callinan Review will provide an independent, open and transparent assessment of the state’s liquor laws, focusing on the facts, to advise the New South Wales Government on the future of these laws,” said NSW police minister Troy Grant.

Photo: Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images.

Earlier this week, the Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) found that there was a 40% drop in sales for live music including a 19% decline in the number of visitors to nightclubs.

Freelancer CEO Matt Barrie wrote a lengthy piece on LinkedIn criticising the government for its “Orwellian nomenclature” saying that the government had “systematically dismantled the entire night time economy through a constant barrage of rules, regulation and social tinkering”.

NSW premier Mike Baird responded to the concerns surrounding the lockout laws on Sydney’s economy and reputation saying: “It is going to take a lot for me to change my mind on a policy that is so clearly improving this city.”

Organisers of the event are saying that as many as 15,000 people are attending the rallies yesterday.

The protests have drawn strong support on social media from Barrie, musicians such as Alison Wonderland and The Aston Shuffle as well as media personalities including Dan Ilic. Find more photos from the event here.

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