In Trade Restriction by Clyde Mooney

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A troupe of stakeholders has banded together to put to government a strategy allowing recognised ‘safe’ venues exemptions to Sydney’s notorious lockouts and trade restrictions.

The plan for broadening exemptions is the result of months of consultation between industry and experts in law and government, and importantly, is based in the existing legislation. No changes to legislation would be required through Parliament or Liquor & Gaming.

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A handful of Sydney city pubs have begun enjoying an extra half-hour of trading, courtesy of an exemption based on them being predominantly live music venues. But after three years’ suppression, the night economy in the CBD and Kings Cross has a long, long way to recover.

Meanwhile, many venues that have never been seen as part of the problem, often having never received any kind of breach, continue to languish under rules that negate their late-trading licences and some of the key aspects of their business in the city.

The plan by the group, referring to themselves as Operation Phoenix, sees eligible Sydney pubs currently under lockout restrictions potentially become ‘Safe Zones’ where patrons are free to enter after 1:30 and protected from harm, inside and out.

The proposal is based in the increased use of Electronic Incident Registers (EIR), which monitor a myriad of events and checks in licensed premises, effectively acting as a proxy licensing inspector 24-7.

The EIRs record all measures taken by a venue to minimise risk and improve safety for its patrons, which can be presented on demand to authorities, and serves to build a picture of the ‘culture of compliance’ in the operation.

The City Safe concept would see qualifying venues apply to L&G for an exemption, which could be readily revoked if the venue is seen to not be executing best practise.

Many of the biggest names in Sydney pubs have gotten involved with the ground-breaking initiative, and a collective approach will be used to educate the public on the issue and gain support for a petition to government requesting the idea be formally addressed.

While the concept is open to any venue using an EIR system, AusComply, one company that produces EIR software, is putting its unconditional support toward the plan, having seen first-hand the difference the electronic monitors can make.

Speaking to PubTIC, AusComply’s Jason Thomas says the timing is right for the Phoenix to rise and the good operators to stop being penalised.

“We have worked hard on the exemption project, and prepare for what we believe is now a perfect time to talk with Government about what we think is the right direction.”

The City Safe project has preliminary backing of both consumer and industry bodies and liquor accords, and plans to execute strategic exposure of the concept over coming weeks.