Everything you need to know about Sydney’s club lockouts

UPDATED: With further information in lieu of the legislation being passed.

Sydney’s clubbing community has been dealt a serious blow with the introduction of harsh new restrictions set to affect clubs and pubs in the city’s CBD. Among the new package of laws are mandatory 1.30am venue lockouts, a 3am ‘last drinks’ policy and a freeze on new liquor licenses. But just how bad are the new measures, and what do they mean for punters and promoters? We break it down below.

What are the measures?

The main changes for Sydney clubbers (assuming you’re not planning on dealing steroids or assaulting people) is that if you want to go to a new venue within the newly defined Sydney precinct – which includes the CBD, Kings Cross, Oxford Street and The Rocks – you need to get there before 1.30am, otherwise the bouncers will refuse you entry.

Once you’re inside, you can drink until 3am, at which point all alcohol service will stop (until 5am, at which time late-licensed venues can recommence serving alcohol). You can stay in the venue after 3am (if they choose to remain open), but you can’t drink any more alcohol. And if you’re planning to hit a bottleshop anywhere in NSW, you’ll now need to do it before 10pm.

Perhaps most worryingly, the proposal includes an indefinite freeze on approving new liquor licences for pubs and clubs in the city precinct – which means no more new venues.

The laws are set to be enforced by the “end of April”, the Premier’s office has said, and will be reviewed in two years’ time.

See below for the full list of measures:

  • Introduction of 1.30am lockouts and 3am last drinks across an expanded CBD precinct to include Kings Cross to Darling Harbour, The Rocks to Haymarket and Darlinghurst (including lower Oxford Street);
  • A precinct-wide freeze on liquor licences for new pubs and clubs will be introduced.
  • New state-wide 10pm closing time for all bottle shops and liquor stores;
  • Free buses running every ten minutes from Kings Cross to the CBD to connect with existing NightRide services on Friday and Saturday nights;
  • Enabling police to impose an immediate CBD precinct ban of up to 48 hours for trouble-makers;
  • Introduction of a periodic risk-based licencing scheme with higher fees imposed for venues and outlets that have later trading hours, poor compliance histories or are in high risk locations;
  • Eight year mandatory minimum sentence for those convicted under new one punch laws where the offender is intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol, plus new mandatory minimum sentences for violent assaults where intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol;
  • Remove voluntary intoxication by drugs or alcohol as a mitigating factor when courts determine sentences;
  • Increasing maximum penalties by two years where drugs and/or alcohol are aggravating factors for violent crimes including assault causing grievous bodily harm, reckless bodily harm, assault against police, affray and sexual assault;
  • Increasing the maximum sentence to 25 years for the illegal supply and possession of steroids – up from two years;
  • Increased on-the-spot fines to $1,100 for continued intoxicated and disorderly behaviour disobeying a police move-on order – an increase of more than five times;
  • Community awareness and media campaign to address the culture of binge drinking and the associated drug and alcohol related violence.
  • From July 18 onwards: No shots, doubles or premixed drinks over 5% alcohol after midnight (excluding cocktails); no buying more than four drinks at one time after midnight; no buying more than two drinks at one time after 2am.

Which clubs will be affected?

Venues that will not be affected, where you can theoretically enter after 1.30am and drink after 3am, will be small bars with a capacity of fewer than 60 patrons, late night restaurants, and hotel bars.

It is likely that all other venues in the new city precinct will be affected, including late-trading clubs and bars like World Bar, The Spice Cellar, Goodgod, Goldfish, Chinese Laundry, and others.

However, venues can become exempt from the lockout and last drinks rules if they pay a fee and if there is a ‘’negligible risk of alcohol-related violence’’.

The owners of Goodgod Small Club described the new laws as a “big step backwards for our thriving music community, a group that dances long into the night whilst respecting their surrounds and one another”, in an editorial for FasterLouder, while the Spice Cellar told inthemix that they had not yet received “any information on whether the new laws will directly affect our venue.”

Are lockouts effective? Or even necessary?

Similar measures have been introduced in Brisbane, Melbourne and Newcastle; Melbourne’s voluntary lockout scheme was abandoned after six months, with the alcohol taskforce created by the Victorian Premier’s office branding it an “unmitigated disaster”. 3am club lockouts are currently in place in Queensland, with the Opposition now pushing for that time to moved forward to 1am.

Newcastle introduced licensing restrictions in 2008, including ID scanning at premises, 1am lockouts, 3am last drinks and bans on shots after 10pm; the model upon which the proposed Sydney restrictions are based. A 2012 report showed that the measures had been effective, with a 37% drop in assaults (although in the two year prior to the new laws, assaults had increased by 50% – and anecdotal evidence suggests that the new laws just pushed the problem of violence outside of the designated lockout area).

Perhaps the most important question is: Are these new laws really necessary? While there’s been a large amount of media attention fixated upon the issue of alcohol-fuelled violence in Sydney’s inner city, sparked by the death of “one-hit” victim Daniel Christie and fuelled by the Sydney Morning Herald ’s ‘Safer Sydney’ campaign, The Guardian reports that “the rate of alcohol-related assaults in New South Wales has been declining since 2008 and is the lowest since 2002.”

What can you do to fight back against the lockouts?

A community forum is being organised by inthemix, set to take place next week, where community members can come together and discuss the best ways to fight O’Farrell’s legislation. We’ll be announcing the finer details of the forum very soon – stay tuned for more.

In the meantime, you can call or write to Barry O’Farrell’s office to register your opinion, or sign one of the main online petitions currently doing the rounds, including this one on Community Run and this one on Change.org. The fight doesn’t have to end there – you can get creative like cult Kings Cross label Rat Life, who’ve gone to work on their own very special form of protest.