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Sydney nightlife restrictions costing state $16 billion

Sydney’s nightlife is tipped to be revamped under a swathe of government recommendations.

Forty recommendations aimed at revitalising Sydney’s night-time economy have been handed down to the NSW Parliament by the Joint Select Committee enquiry into the controversial lockout laws.

The report revealed Sydney could be missing out on up to $16 billion in economic activity due to the restrictions in place amongst venues trading after-dark. It called for an immediate lifting of the 1:30am lockout and the removal of a number of alcohol service restrictions including the strength of drinks that can be served after a particular time and for drinks to be served in a glass over plastic.

Crucially, Kings Cross has been singled out as a sector of the city which should continue to be bound by the current restrictions, with the report labelling the suburb as having a “unique nature” and for having a high density of venues.

Safety was identified as a key concern in the report, which carried the stipulation that the NSW Liquor and Gaming Authority have the power to reinstate current restrictions on any venue not complying with any recommended relaxation. It also suggested a greater level of cooperation between venues, regulators and the private sector to ensure a greater level of accountability and community engagement be adopted and enforced.

Nearly 200 businesses have closed in Kings Cross since lockout laws were introduced.

Tourism Accommodation Australia, which tabled a submission into the enquiry, said Sydney was back on track to restore its status as Australia’s only gateway city and that it welcomed the “sensible recommendations” featured in the report.

“These include removing the 1.30am blanket lockout in the Sydney CBD, recommendations for 24hr public transport on weekends, the streamlining of the application process for liquor licensing and development applications and improved safety measures for the city.”

Accommodation Association of Australia CEO, Dean Long, embraced the report’s findings and said the report recognises the need for proactive steps to support growth and innovation through more arts and music venues.

“Ultimately however, safety is paramount, in both building demand and Sydney’s reputation as an attractive, international city.

“Adequate transport options inclusive of extending the operating time of the light rail on Friday and Saturday nights, better surveillance and policing and appropriate lighting in the streets and parks will be vital in improving safety at night,” Long added.

The recommendation of a ministerial appointment and over-arching coordinator within an existing branch of the state government was highlighted by Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) as an essential piece of the puzzle.

“The Committee recognises that the lockout has caused brand damage to Sydney,” NTIA Chairman Michael Rodrigues said.

“In order for it to be gone entirely it’s up to industry to demonstrate to government and the public at large that Sydney’s nightlife can be rebuilt as one that is diverse and inclusive, with activities that are not solely dependent on the consumption of alcohol.”

A further review of any lifting of regulations has been earmarked to occur in 12 months.

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