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News October 27, 2015

Sydney clubs trial voluntary 3am lockouts while QLD battles them

Senior Journalist, B2B
Sydney clubs trial voluntary 3am lockouts while QLD battles them

Fed up with boozed-up late night clubbers heading to their venues after the Kings Cross and CBD lock-outs, ten operators in Sydney’s inner west Newtown and Enmore have decided to trial a 3am lockout from September for six months.

The Newtown Liquor Accord made the decision last Friday, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Newtown Liquor Accord chairman Tim Claydon, who runs The Vanguard, said it was a pre-emptive move to keep the suburb’s nightlife trouble-free and maintain its “community vibe.”

He told would-be revellers, "We're not going to be the last spot for drinks. Don’t even think of heading to Newtown at 3am after a night out in the city as you simply won't get into venues.”

Newtown operators have for 12 months noticed a rise in late night traffic after the Kings Cross ban was introduced in February 2014.

At a recent meeting of the local community hosted by the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, some felt the area no longer felt as safe, and local police admitted an increase in alcohol-related assaults in venues in the past year.

The upcoming six month trial is being carried out in most of the area’s major nightspots, except for the Sly Fox which declined, and the beleaguered Empire Hotel which was not included amidst rumours it is closing down indefinitely after two enforced 72-hour close-downs due to licence contraventions.

The Marlborough Hotel, Zanzibar and The Bank will also ban shots and "doubles" after midnight and stop selling alcohol 30 minutes before closing.

These moves comes as more Kings Cross venues close or change their businesses as trade dropped as a result of the lock-out. In the latest, the high-profile Hugos Lounge went into voluntary administration after a 60% drop in revenue. Chief executive of the Kings Cross Liquor Accord Doug Grand called the entertainment strip “a ghost town from what it used to be.”

The issues in NSW are being closely monitored in Queensland, where the state government is planning to bring in 1am lockouts and 3am closing this year. The government’s argument is that the Sydney lockouts have caused a drop in alcohol-fuelled assault, and will increase police patrols to catch and prosecute errant venues.

Venue operators fought back, setting up Our Nightlife Queensland as a lobby group in April. They say that the assault rates in Queensland are not as high as in NSW. Says its Secretary Nick Braban who manages the Wickham Hotel, “It’s reacting to a problem that does not exist.”

Venue operators are fearful at how restricted trading hours and the banning of expensive alcohol after midnight will hit their revenues. CBD Townsville Liquor Accord President and Mad Cow owner Mark Napier predicted venue closures in the entertainment strips. “Meanwhile, you’re just going to spread the problem to places which don’t have the resources and amenities to deal with it,” he said.

The Chair of Townsville City Council’s Healthy and Safe City Committee, Cr Gary Eddiehausen, who recently attended the Safe Cities Conference in Melbourne, emphasised that unlike Sydney, Townsville has only one nightclub area, Flinders Street East. Once that closes, he feared, the only alternative was for revellers to head to the suburbs.

Image: The Vanguard

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