Outgoing Sydney Premiere Mike Baird will be remembered for many things; however, his most defining contribution will certainly be his liquor lockout laws. In a bid to curb abusive drinking behavior and drinking related violence in Sydney, Baird introduced a controversial set of laws labelled the lockout laws.
It’s no secret that Australians enjoy a drink, but among young people, the fun has become a drinking problem. Youths binge drink, they pre-load before heading out to bars and the results can lead to violence in bars and on the streets. Sydney’s response of introducing the lockout laws came closely after a series of deaths directly related to drinking and violence. The laws prohibited entering a bar after 1am, and stated that drinks could only be served until 3am. The aim was to prevent masses of intoxicated people from spilling out onto the streets all at once.
While the rationale makes sense, the result was twofold. Younger Sydney residents claimed the lockout laws were killing Sydney’s night life. Hospitality business owners were also up in arms over the laws as they claimed they were harming their businesses. Over time this indeed proved to be the case, many nightclubs and bars began closing down and the Sydney city nightlife weakened. Nevertheless, there has also been less violence on the streets since the lockout laws were introduced – according to 2015 police data assault rates decreased by almost 50% – largely because there are less people out late at night now.
Baird’s approach was not the only possible solution, and many think it was not the right one. These objectors believe the answer lies in greater policing, more social programs, PR and public education. There have been a number of demonstrations claiming the laws are shifting the violence to other areas of the city while causing significant harm to local culture, and night-time economy.
At the end of 2016 the law was reviewed and the government decided on a two year trial period during which music venues will be authorized to keep their doors open until 2am and serve drinks until 3.30am. It will be interesting to see how this plays out economically, culturally and socially.