The independent review into the controversial trade restrictions in Sydney and across NSW prompted a swath of submissions including the AHA’s call to drop the “poor policy” in favour of evidence-based policies.
The Hon. Ian Callinan AC QC was appointed by the NSW Government to oversee the review into the 1:30am lockout and 3am last drinks conditions imposed upon the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross, and the State-wide 10am closure of bottleshops.
The mandated review, scheduled for two years after the laws were introduced in early 2014, invited stakeholder submissions in an attempt to garner a broad range of opinions on the laws wider effects. While many in favour have claimed great success in reducing violence around the entertainment precincts, there is no clear evidence which, if any, of the dozens of restrictive measures imposed on venues is producing a desired effect.
Hospital data claiming reductions in admissions to emergency rooms is tainted with number-stacking and prohibitionist rhetoric suggesting annihilation of the late-night economy is a small price to pay for any reduction in assaults. But even the statistically ambiguous reduction doesn’t nearly correlate with the drop in patronage.
Over 1800 submissions were presented to the independent review, including many from industries bodies and liquor accords.
The Australian Hotels Association NSW’ submission detailed 13 recommendations, including the unceremonious dropping of both the 1:30 lockout and 10am bottleshop closure.
The AHA NSW slammed the ill-conceived measures, which have seen patronage plummet in the once thriving entertainment precincts, highlighting the need for industry input, and the pre-existing methods for punishing venues actually guilty of wrongdoing.
“Two years ago we saw the introduction of a series of blanket measures that unfairly penalise many safe, well-run venues with a proven track record of compliance,” said AHA NSW director of liquor and policing, John Green.
“The Liquor Act already has real teeth to deal with rogue operators. The power to cancel or suspend a licence already exists, as does the power to disqualify any person from having an interest in the business.
“Imposing additional blanket measures on everyone, regardless of whether they are a good or bad operator, is poor policy.”
Green noted that 36 different measures have been introduced to the Kings Cross precinct since 2012 and 21 measures onto the Sydney CBD. While BOCSAR reports a reduction in assault figures in these areas, it would be impossible to determine which measures (if any) have actually worked.
The AHA NSW is in favour of replacing the 3am last drinks rule with one determined by neighbouring Newtown, which has been under heavy scrutiny as the possible site of spill-over violence due to its proximity to the restrictive lockout zones.
“Crowd numbers are up in Newtown, but violence has remained at low levels,” confirmed Green. “This has been achieved through the local community, including hoteliers, working together on issues in their own area.
“We would like to see initiatives like this one in place in the CBD and Kings Cross.”
The Association was also very critical of the forced bottleshop closing time and its relevance and effects – especially on inherently innocent regional businesses, and particularly coming not long after the State Government’s own independent review in 2013 that recommended closing times remain at midnight.
“We can’t work out why country and regional pubs have been caught up in this Sydney-centric legislation. The bush pub has been hurt particularly hard by the banning of over the counter take-away sales after 10.00pm.
“We see the best results when industry, government, the police and the community all work together. The long-term aim must be to bring about cultural change that will render violence, including drunken violence, unacceptable at any level in our society.”