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The collateral damage caused by Sydney's war on nightlife

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Last year Daily Review contributor Joseph O’Donoghue set off an explosive argument among Sydneysiders with his article Is Sydney’s Nightlife on Life Support? 
Where Oxford Street once teemed with weekend life, it is now peppered with ‘for lease’ signs. Where Crown Street was once a walking and bustling conduit, it now feels eerily toned down,” he said, writing about the after-effect of new lockout laws.
These were introduced in February 2014 after tragic — and fatal — instances of night-time violence. The laws meant that 1.30am lockouts and 3am last drinks restrictions came into force across a new Sydney CBD “Entertainment Precinct” which stretched from parts of Surry Hills and Darlinghurst to The Rocks, and from Kings Cross to Cockle Bay.
Mark Piggott, whose family ran a newsagency on Taylor Square but who closed it down last year in the wake of the laws, writes below about the fallout on businesses and Sydney’s reputation as a world city.


Has Australia got itself a cultural drinking problem that for a small minority manifests itself in all manner of anti-social behavior?
Can Aussies learn from abroad that having a good time does not have to equal the amount of alcohol consumed?
Sydney may be the most beautiful city around, but can we live off the harbour and its annual fireworks at the cost of all else?
Is it that at any public gathering or major sporting event it’s alcohol that nearly always is the first thing championed?
Yes, yes, no and yes to the above.
This month marks since five months since my family took the tragic business decision to close what is probably Australia’s — and definitely Sydney’s — most famous newsagent after 83 years at Taylor Square.
Piggott’s, our newsagency in Oxford Street has been referred to by many as becoming a victim of the collateral damage caused by he laws that have affected Sydney’s nightlife.
It is not only the live the music industry that has gone to the wall over these laws. The domino affect continues to be profound. I laugh, cry and cringe when I hear comments by many so-called experts who have never been to any of the lockout zones but continue to claim they know what’s best to solve the city’s problems.
I think I can speak from some point of measured knowledge, balance and authority on this issue as I have grown up on Oxford Street for almost 40 years. If I include my late grandfather, we, as a family have been in this area for more than 80 years.
Sydney city has been going downhill ever since the Olympic rings were exploded on the Harbour Bridge. We’ve lived off the afterglow for some years but the city’s decline continues at an alarming rate. In fact, we need another Olympics, or some such major event, to reignite our city.
New South Wales has become one of the most over-governed, nanny states around. If there is not already a law against it — anything — just wait and the state government will invent one to restore order and control the population.
Sydney’s lockout laws are about to “celebrate” their second anniversary on the eve of Sydney’s annual Mardi Gras parade — Sydney’s second biggest annual event.
Who in their right mind would have brought in these new laws to coincide with such an event?
Darlinghurst has never recovered from the shockwaves sent around the world since then.
As tragic and avoidable as those two deaths in King’s Cross were at the time, who is going to speak up about the incalculable damage done to the city and its culture, its businesses and its jobs?
There are also the many family businesses that operate at night – and yes during the day too  — that have been irreversibly damaged in the crossfire.
Most of these never make the news or the Sunday newspapers despite the family or personal tragedies that have ensued.
What price has Sydney’s lockout truly cost? The laws have gone way too far, and only now are the greater public realising what they have lost, and just how dead the city is at night and right through until the early morning.
One o’clock in the morning is not late, but the turnstile of the city’s economy has been affectively jammed shut and here has been a trickle-down effect on many industries and jobs.
Unless you were, or are, one of those affected, how would you know what is truly happening to the city?
I say the solution lies in the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid).

  1. Roll the laws back to 3am
  2. Get the anti-business language out of the conversation and call them ‘Last Drinks’
  3. Make these laws statewide

Only then may the city of Sydney have some chance to recover its night and day economies. ‘Last Drinks’ is a simple and unambiguous and fair and to everyone, no matter what postcode or end of town you visit or live in.
Simple, but I wait to see if the NSW government can be contrite enough to acknowledge that they got it so wrong. If they do, all hell will not break loose and the sun will rise over this great city of Sydney so that it can again claim to be one of the world’s truly great cities — open and ready for the world’s business.

11 responses to “The collateral damage caused by Sydney's war on nightlife

  1. More special interest pleading by someone who prospered on ‘the way things used to be’.
    Well ‘the way things used to be led to people dying’ so if the toss up is between people dying or someone complaining that he needs 3AM trade to survive, then I’ll come down on the side that says people don’t need to die.

    1. Someone died in a car crash at 9pm.. Quick, ban all cars from entering the road after 130am, and ban everyone off the road by 3am. Ensure everone’s home in bed wrapped in cotton wool. There there, feel better now, Unicorn?

    2. The problem is that the number of people dying remains unchanged. That problem has just been diluted so that you can ignore it. Same thing happened in Newcastle. The CBD is now deserted by 1am but the suburban streets are full of pissed idiots with nowhere to go.

  2. I have lived just off Oxford street for the better part of a decade and half, and have been going out on Oxford street for almost 25 years.
    The strip is dead, it’s lost it’s magic since the lockout laws came into place and let’s be totally honest here Oxford street was not the vector of violence to begin with.
    The lockout laws would not have saved the two lives of the king hit victims that the laws were bought in for. Both attacks were before midnight.
    Unicorn – Small business is not a “special interest” group we are the lifeblood of the country and barriers to us employing ourselves and others such as lockout laws that do nothing are stupid.
    These laws have not saved lives they have simply pushed the violence and mayhem away from the Cross and Darlinghurst. The Casino which has an exemption from the laws is the most violent entertainment percent in the state.
    Violence has significantly increased in areas such as Newtown but all we hear about a statistical decrease in presentations to St Vincents Hospital.
    Let’s be totally honest here the lockout laws were encouraged and lobbied by building developers who wanted access to the development sites in Kings Cross.
    And guess what, as the clubs have failed, the buildings have been sold to developers.
    Unicorn, the solution to people dying is not lockout laws – ask yourself why Melbourne with their 24 hour trading doesn’t have the same level of violence new does? It’s education and a new conversation about violence and alcohol.
    If you want to stop people dying do something real not use platitudes to talk about something that very obviously you have no actual factual basis of your statement.

  3. The core weapon used by the government to financially damage the balance sheets of businesses is an Orwellian and cunning system known as the statewide Alcohol Linking Program.
    Most of us have read about the notoriously “violent establishment” and “alcohol related violence”. What most people do not realise is these the vast majority of these assaults occur away of from the establishment where the alcohol is consumed and that in the majority of cases the consumer of the alcohol is the victim, not the perpetrator.

    The Alcohol Linkage Program as designed more accurately measures crimes against “sinners” (being people who drink) than reliable statistics on crime due to venues.
    It’s also very cunning because it provides a mechanism for an Orwellian state government led by evangelical christians to implement a framework of religious policy.

  4. Don’t forget the two young men got coward punched at 9pm and 10pm. With a lockout law at 1.30am? Most people are lead to beleive that these unfortunate incidents happened after midnight.

  5. So a lot of pissed people used to buy newspapers at 1am?
    A kebab shop I might understand but I would’ve thought that the internet led general decline in print media had more to do with a newsagent shutting down.

  6. The retirees that ate Sydney 7
    As I suspected those who moved into areas like Kings Cross and Darlinghurst quite recently, ( a few yuppies but mostly retirees ) are the first to complain. They have decided that they want to live in Australia’s own little slice of upper east or west side Manhattan, because it’s exciting!
    The problem is they’re getting old and tired and need to go to bed early, it’s no fun listening to young people enjoying the night while your in bed.
    Too many memories, too sad.
    So let’s shut the place down and if they complain write to the newspapers and your state and local government’s.
    What else have they’ve got to do. ?

  7. Why don’t you have a look at your politicians they are not really very Australian, they don’t even know how to make a city work, let alone know how it operates, they have destroyed a City for a generation.

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