The winner of Sydney’s lockout laws

Posted on February 16, 2016 by ATB Chartered Accountants

Since February 2014, the introduction of lockout laws throughout Sydney saw that after 1:30am, pubs and clubs in the CBD and Kings Cross are to close their doors to new customers, serve their last drinks at 3am. Bottle shops and other takeaway alcohol sales are required to stop at 10pm in these areas as well.

The major beneficiary of this law is the Star casino which is exempt from these restrictions as the lock-out zone conveniently ends at Darling Harbour. This zone also excludes James Packer’s planned casino development in Barangagroo.

Since the introduction of the lockout laws, a large number of bars and clubs in the city have been forced to close their doors, with critics blaming the laws for driving customers away and into unrestricted areas in the city. In Kings Cross, the effects of the lockout laws are particularly dire for small business owners. The property agency Gunning have reported that most, if not all tenants in Kings Cross are not able to meet their rental commitments, and landlords are hesitant to terminate these leases as it unlikely that they will be able to get another tenant.

In the same time period however, the Star casino reported a gross revenue of $1.541 billion in 2014-15, with $320 million being paid to the NSW government in gambling taxes. This reported profit is over $100 million more than what was reported by the Star in 2013-14. The Star claim that this significant profit was the result of their $870 million refurbishment in 2013, and nothing to do with the lack of competition in what was the hotspot for Sydney’s nightlife.

The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSR) found that alcohol-related assaults in Kings Cross dropped by approximately 45%, however in the first 6 months of the introduction of the lockout laws the number of assaults at the Star increased, averaging at 6.3 a month. The statistics regarding the Kings Cross reduction in violence to not consider the sharp decline in foot traffic through the area.

Even despite being exempt from the lockout laws, the Star are also exempt from the ‘three strikes’ rule which has the power of stripping venues of their liquor license following repeated breaches of liquor codes. In 2013-14, the Star was fined 12 times for liquor license breaches.

LOCKOUT LAWS IN OTHER AUSTRALIAN CITIES

In recent weeks following an announcement that Brisbane would be looking at implementing similar lockout laws, there has been an influx of criticism towards the restrictions. June of 2008 saw the beginning of the short implementation of lockout laws in Melbourne where venues were not to let in people between 2am-7am, however they found that there was a spike in violence due to patrons being denied entry.

The Melbourne lockout laws only stayed for three months as the government found that it was relatively ineffective in preventing alcohol-fueled violence. Since the ending of the lockouts in Melbourne, the city is moving towards becoming a 24-hour city, with a thriving, unrestricted nightlife, and 24 hour transport services available on weekends. While Sydney is facing dire economic conditions as a direct result of the lockout laws, Melbourne have proved that lockout laws are only damaging to businesses.