A week after quiet-spoken hotel doyen Bruce Solomon seized the opportunity to slap some perspective on Sydney’s lockout laws debate, all is quiet on the nanny-state front.
Solomon rose to accept his inauguration into the NSW Australian Hotels Association Hall of Fame, at the Association’s annual Awards for Excellence last Tuesday.
Speaking to a crowd of around 1,000 compatriots, he took the opportunity to point out some of the major failings of the raft of trading restrictions that were placed on Kings Cross – most pertinently the latest round, introduced February last year, which mandated a 1:30 lockout and 3am last call.
The founding head of celebrated group Solotel acknowledged reports of a drop in violence – but reiterated the failings of a system that achieved comparatively little for such a high price.
“The other side of the coin is that there used to be 25,000 people in the Cross at 2am on a Saturday night, and now there’s 3,000. That’s an 85 per cent drop.
“It’s little wonder there’s less violence out there.”
Solomon went on to suggest authorities thought the people of Melbourne “can be trusted” whereas Sydneysiders cannot, and that the short-sighted laws have done long-term damage.
“I think when history looks at what’s happened in the Cross, I think a lot of people will think what a mistake it was that we destroyed one part of our culture; we destroyed one part of what Sydney is about.
“[Tourists] from overseas come to Sydney, they come and scratch their heads and wonder why there isn’t a late-night precinct in Sydney … Whatever happened to Kings Cross?”
He also spoke of the tragic personal losses in the Kings Cross entertainment precinct, with dozens of businesses going under. Far from bemoaning his own business – one of the strip’s strongest survivors, the Kings Cross Hotel – sympathies were with the likes of Hugos, and so many ancillary shops and operations that added to the texture of the precinct, that have now gone bankrupt.
The days that followed Solomon’s outburst saw media around the country offer up ‘prominent Sydney hotelier’ as the face of the dispute over the trading restrictions, and potentially the target for inflammatory do-gooder media – the likes of which championed St Vincent’s Hospital’s 25 per cent drop in alcohol-related incidents as “proof” of the restrictions’ success.
Almost a week later, a spokesperson for Solotel spoke to PubTIC, and relays the group is glad their Captain’s speech has been taken in context.
“We are very pleased with the balance of the coverage.”
The trading restrictions in Sydney’s CBD and Kings Cross are due for review in February, 2016 – a devastating two years after their introduction. Most believe even a return to conditions prior to February 2014 will reverse the demise of the legendary Darlinghurst Road late-night precinct.