Sydney’s lockout laws will be relaxed slightly under certain conditions to allow people into bars until 2AM from 2017.
The changes approved by the Baird government are in line with the recommendations of the review into the laws by former High Court judge Ian Callinan earlier this year.
The 2am curfew, 30 minutes later than the existing cut off, will operate as a trial for two years, alongside last drinks also being pushed back 30 minutes to 3.30am.
But there is a catch — the later times will only apply to “venues that offer genuine live entertainment, live performances or art and cultural events”, which means no change for a bar with a DJ.
The statewide curfew in buying drinks to takeaway will be lifted from 10pm to 11pm, and also apply to home delivery services.
The laws, introduced by the former O’Farrell government in February 2014 following two deadly one-punch attacks in Kings Cross much earlier in the evening, have attracted controversy ever since with a number of high profile venues, including Hugo’s, blaming their closure on the laws.
Hotelier Justin Hemmes, CEO of Merivale Group, said he was forced to turn away a number of international celebrities who attempted to visit his CBD hotel Ivy after performing in the city because of the laws.
Freelancer CEO Matt Barrie, a critic and campaigner against the lockout laws, says that if rumours premier Mike Baird was going to resign this morning were true, it “would have been better news”.
“Baird really must take the people and small businesses of Sydney for idiots if he really thinks 30 minutes will do anything. This is just a delay tactic,” he said.
Baird said the Callinan review found that the lockout laws resulted in ‘much safer, quieter and cleaner areas’.
“He made some common sense suggestions for changes that we are confident will further enhance night-life in the precincts without undermining the essential purpose of the laws – which is to make the CBD and the Cross places where people can enjoy a safe night out,” Baird said.
The changes to lockouts, takeaway sales, and small bars will start in January.
Other changes to the state’s three strikes and the liquor license freeze are planned but need parliamentary approval. The government said it will present the legislation early next year.