Compromise Key to Unlock Sydney’s Nights

By Sam Coffey – Three Cheers Training


As an Australian, the adoption of the Sydney lockout laws and increased restrictions on licensed venues are disappointing, as they symbolise a ‘can’t-do’ attitude rather than an Aussie ‘can-do’ one. Our iconic “no worries” attitude was not on display when it came to sorting this out with an eye on giving everyone involved a “fair go”. But thankfully, there are now moves to rectify this, as shown by the announcement of the NSW government’s “night-time economy roundtable” discussions beginning at the end of March, where the aim is to search for more innovative solutions from various key stakeholders.

I have faith that as the ‘smart’ country, these roundtables will achieve their goals of finding innovative ways to address the problems, whilst allowing the cultural vibrancy of the late-night economy to healthily flourish.

It’s a good beginning that the Sydney lockout laws and the additional increased restrictions on service are now being widely regarded as too strong a reaction that has left a trail of once vibrant businesses dead in its wake, and a once flourishing nightlife struggling for its survival.

The roundtable will recognise a number of problems to be addressed in the night time economy. From my end I can see there are issues with binge drinking; Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) management in licensed venues is not good enough, and neither is the enforcement of it by authorities.

Patron management techniques in venues needs to be both improved and standardised across the industry. In my opinion, management of people out on the street has to be managed better, and in a standardised way – by the police, too. Police responses to ‘Fail to Leaves’ (when a patron refuses to leave a licensed venue) possibly needs to be standardised and better enforced. Transport options need to be better and it would be good if policing on the streets increased in well-known troublesome areas.

When the streets are awash with intoxicated revellers, it does often feel to the sober observer like there is a danger of a violent incident and anti-social behaviour taking place. Kings Cross for one wasn’t a place that was particularly regarded as a safe haven, and I’ve heard stories of how dangerous George Street could be at night, especially from the cinemas down towards Haymarket. These weren’t the only two spots that had a reputation, but they became the two hotspots that were thrust into the limelight.

St Vincents Emergency department was at a point of exasperation with the high amount of injuries they were receiving from alcohol-related incidents every weekend, and as carers of our society spoke up for the need for change. The public and the press called for action, the Premier acted. The authorities Premier Barry O’Farrell charged with stopping the violence on the streets implemented the lockouts and the increased restrictions on licensed venues, which did have an impact on reducing the violence, however unfortunately did so in a way that has destroyed many venues, jobs and threatens the cultural vibrancy of our great city.

Lockout article pic_girl with signWe’re presently in the process of throwing out the baby with the bath water, but again, I have faith that these roundtable discussions will result in a change of tack, with the correct solutions implemented so as to quickly minimise any further damage, allowing for positive regrowth in the sector.

I myself have been involved in the hospitality industry for over 20 years. The last six of these years I have been working on solutions in this space. I write this piece to put forward that they would see safe, fun, cultural nights for patrons being a possibility, whilst allowing for a diverse, vibrant late-night culture to be alive and well.

With everything that’s happened in Sydney we still have the chance, which these roundtables signal we’ll grab, to achieve all-round compromise from government and industry, with patron and public support, to see Sydney develop the safest, and one of the most vibrant late night cultures in the world, befitting of her international city status.


For the full story by Sam Coffey, see Compromise is Key to unlock Sydney’s nights.

Sam Coffey is founder and director of Three Cheers Training, which specialises in best-practise training for hospitality staff to optimise patron experience and business.

Three Cheers has seen endorsement by the likes of Sydney’s The Rocks Liquor Accord, and City North Liquor Accord.

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