The lockout laws that critics say have decimated Sydney’s nightlife and pulled billions out of the city’s after-dark economy could be scrapped across most of the city, after a government inquiry recommended removing key pillars of the controversial laws.
Five years after the lockout laws were introduced following a run of so-called “one-punch” attacks in the city, a government-led inquiry has recommended scrapping restrictions such as the 1.30am lockout and a ban on shots after midnight across most of the city.
The government has yet to formally respond to the inquiries findings, but the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has already indicated her willingness to repeal the laws.
Chaired by Liberal party MP Natalie Ward, the joint select committee on Sydney’s night-time economy released its report on Monday morning, making 40 recommendations including that the government should lift the restrictions “with appropriate urgency”.
Bans on serving high-alcohol content beverages after midnight and the 3am cessation of service should also be lifted, the report recommended.
While the inquiry said the laws should be lifted for most of the city including Oxford Street, it recommended they remain in place in Kings Cross.
Once the heart of Sydney’s nightlife, Kings Cross was also the scene of the one-punch attacks that led to the deaths Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie, which sparked the introduction of the laws in 2014.
The report stated that due to the “historical nature” of Kings Cross and the high number of venues in the areas there was a “high risk” that if the laws were removed “violence would increase and the rate of assaults would begin to rise again”.
Instead, it said the government should consider ways to look at ways to “deconcentrate and diversify” Kings Cross, and consider reviewing the laws again in 12 months.
The inquiry found that there were 1,921 fewer non-domestic assaults in the Kings Cross precinct – a decrease of 52.8% – between January 2014 and March 2019, as a result of the laws.
“So what we have said is that Kings Cross, if given better streetscape, better lighting, if it diversifies its licences, if it offers different approaches and it works with residents, [it] can absolutely have a way forward [to removing the restrictions],” Ward said on Monday.
The report stated the inquiry had heard evidence that the laws were costing the economy $16bn a year, and that the city’s night-time economy could increase from $27bn to $43bn if the laws were softened.
This month the premier said she agreed it was “time to enhance Sydney’s nightlife”.
“Sydney is Australia’s only global city and we need our nightlife to reflect that,” she said.