LOCKOUT WARS: SYDNEY MARCHES vs MELBOURNE CHUCKLES

In Trade Restriction by Clyde Mooney

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Thousands of people marched in the streets of Sydney yesterday to protest the Government’s destruction of the city’s nightlife – right past invitations to party in Melbourne.

Keep Sydney Open – a group passionately dedicated to reviving Sydney’s live music scene and night-time economy – rallied up to 10,000 (counts vary) like-minded citizens to demonstrate their displeasure at the trading restrictions, collectively known as the lockout laws, that have crippled CBD and Kings Cross hospitality venues.

The political powers and temperance groups have cried success at the laws’ positive effect on alcohol-related hospital admissions, and NSW Premier Baird has made his support for the restrictions well known.

Opponents say any reduction in admissions has been due to the dramatic drop in patronage to the precincts, which has subsequently devastated the vibrancy of the city and rendered many innocent businesses unviable.

“There is an alternative” says Melbourne, specifically the Chapel Street Precinct, which has begun spruiking industry to abandon the flailing Sydney to take up opportunity in the southern capital.

“We’re simply treating Sydneysiders as responsible adults,” says Chrissie Maus, marketing and events director for the Chapel Street Precinct association, with the new campaign:  Play till it’s my bed-time, not Mike Baird time.

“If you are fed-up with NSW’s draconian entertainment laws that have killed off the once vibrant precincts Oxford Street and Kings Cross, there is an alternative to shop, play and stay!  Melbourne’s Chapel Street boasts some of the country’s best bubbles and bites, and it’s where revellers can party ‘til sunrise.”

The guerrilla marketing campaign offers a caricature of Baird headed to bed with a candle. Hundreds of posters have been plastered throughout Sydney’s hardest hit precincts and a digital advertising truck patrols the streets.

The message is clearly designed to mock Sydney’s draconian laws, capitalising on Victoria’s decision to reject imposing trade restrictions such as lockouts in favour of more sophisticated measures that don’t penalise everyone.

Faced with the recent Callinan review’s meagre recommendations of only slight easing of restrictions, many in the music and hospitality industries are rife for temptation to better prospects. While Sydney fades, Melbourne has begun 24-hour transport and other initiatives to encourage business.

Keep Sydney Open campaign manager Tyson Koh led a ceremony and guest speakers at the conclusion of yesterday’s rally, as thousands gathered around Taylor Square to protest the dying of the light. (see entire ceremony)

Newly elected Councillor for the City of Sydney, Jessica Scully, spoke representing Clover Moore and the CoS, and reiterated their opposition to the lockouts.

Cr Scully noted that years before then Premier Barry O’Farrell imposed the blanket rules in February 2014, Council had carried out extensive research on the alcohol issues and issued recommendations, which were subsequently ignored, with Government choosing to instead use “a sledgehammer approach to deal with a cultural issue”.

Amongst many impassioned arguments, Koh cited a Federally funded study by the Live Music Office that found in just 12 months following the introduction of the lockouts, ticket revenue for live music events was down 40 per cent, compared to the same corresponding period.

At the same time, he says, the much-championed 25 per cent reduction in alcohol-related trauma at St.Vincents amounts to just two cases per month, plus violence in Kings Cross has dramatically increased per capita, and assaults around the Casino have doubled.

“Is that what NSW has become?” Koh asked the crowd. “We just sell out culture to the highest bidder.

“Keep Sydney Open will march in the streets to call on the state government to let Sydney have the same, world-class late-night culture we all know this city is capable of having.”

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