News January 11, 2022

NSW to test Special Entertainment Precincts in Sydney and beyond

NSW to test Special Entertainment Precincts in Sydney and beyond
Enmore Theatre/Facebook

The NSW government is about to unveil a pilot program that will support councils to set up Special Entertainment Precincts (SEPs) in Sydney.

“This is a great initiative to help our live music industry and hospitality sector to get back on their feet following the COVID-19 pandemic,” planning minister Rob Stokes said.

“The program will give live performances a boost by helping councils cut red tape and encourage a thriving live music and entertainment scene. We want to see the NSW night-time economy grow while ensuring it’s diverse, vibrant, safe and inclusive.”

The government will work with City of Sydney, Inner West and Lake Macquarie councils.

SEPs could include live music venues, street festivals and tourism opportunities in regional cities, including in the Newcastle and Wollongong regions.

City of Sydney is yet to choose its location, but the area around the Metro Theatre on George Street in the CBD seems a popular view. However, Inner West Council has taken the lead, in May 2021 voting to establish a SEP along Enmore Road.

It meant the Enmore Theatre was in line to be the first in the state to be protected from frivolous noise complaints, and for Greg Khoury, executive director of the theatre’s owner Century Venues, the SEP concept sent out a specific message.

Similar to Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, it’s a stress on live music, late trading allowances and limited avenues for complaints against venues.

“No other nighttime business generates greater economic flow-on effects to communities than live performance spaces,” Khoury said.

Studies on the impact of the SEP status on Fortitude Valley shows Sydney’s precincts could be transformed for the better.

Fortitude Valley has a 3.9% population growth a year with more than 64% of the working-age population under the age of 35.

There’s been vibrant nighttime, commercial and boutique retail activity with a surge in start-ups and creative industries, a café culture, and innovative use of buildings, spaces and laneways.

The NSW government made 63 changes to liquor laws to make it easier to host music.

These include an 80% reduction on annual liquor licence fees and an 80% reduction on permanent extended trading application fees.

Those hosting a gig or “other arts and cultural event” can trade an extra hour.

These are available until at least 2024 when they are due to be reviewed.

Pictured: Metro Theatre, Sydney

Victor Dominello, minister for digital and customer services, emphasised that supporting venues to put on more live music and performance was a core component of the government’s nighttime economy and liquor reforms.

“The NSW government’s nighttime economy reforms have been heralded by the live music industry as nation-leading,” he said.

“That’s because they are based on providing incentives, streamlining approval processes and taking a data-driven approach to regulation.

“By supporting initiatives such as Special Entertainment Precincts we are facilitating opportunities for the next generation of musicians and live entertainers.”

In the meantime, the City of Parramatta has its own 24-hour city strategy that would see more late-night entertainment venues, dining and retail opening until 3am as part of a 12-month trial.

The proposal is on exhibition until January 31, and comes at a time when the area is attracting a lot of commercial and residential investment.

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