‘Magic is going to happen’: Justin Hemmes predicts Sydney nightlife will return to a ‘pre-Olympic’ atmosphere after lockout laws are scrapped
- Sydney’s lockout laws will be lifted across the CBD on January 14 next year
- Justin Hemmes welcomed scrapping of lockout saying Sydney will be ‘magical’
- The 1.30am lockout laws will remain in place in the Kings Cross precinct
- Supporters say it’s the first step towards reviving Sydney’s struggling nightlife
Sydney is set to return to its bustling, vibrant and ‘magical’ nightlife after the hated lockout laws are scrapped, one of the city’s hospitality giants has predicted.
Justin Hemmes, who owns Merivale, said it would take time, but the city could enjoy a boom similar to the one it experienced just before the 2000 Olympics.
‘With the opening of the light rail, the pedestrianisation of George Street, the relaxation of the lockout laws, I feel like I haven’t seen Sydney like this since pre-Olympics and I think it’s bloody exciting,’ Mr Hemmes told The Sydney Morning Herald.
‘I feel magic is going to happen.’
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Thursday the heavily-criticised laws will be lifted for most of Sydney’s CBD on January 14, but will remain in place for the Kings Cross precinct.
The decision comes after a recent parliamentary report revealed the laws cost the state $16 billion a year.
The lockout laws that destroyed Sydney’s nightlife will be scrapped in January
Restrictions will remain in Kings Cross (pictured before the lockout laws)
Merivale Group owner Justin Hemmes initially backed the lockout laws back in 2014, but says the changes will bring Sydney back to its prime
Ms Berejiklian said last drinks would be pushed back to 3.30am, 30 minutes longer than it is now.
The government has pledged to review the changes in 12 months.
The Australian Hotels Association also welcomed the news.
‘We always said the lockout laws would strangle Sydney’s nightlife and that is exactly what has happened over the last five years,’ AHA chief executive John Whelan said.
‘We welcome their removal and now ask all sides of politics to come together to work to re-invigorate the city’s night-life and return Sydney to its status as Australia’s only global city.’
Other changes include the removal of restrictions on serving cocktails, shots and drinks in glass after midnight and extended bottle shop opening hours across NSW until midnight from Monday to Saturday, with an 11pm closing time on Sunday.
Ms Berejiklian said last drinks would be pushed back to 3.30am, 30 minutes longer than it is now (Sydney’s nightlife has suffered since the lockout laws were introduced in 2014)
Sydney’s streets have been left empty after the lockout laws were introduced in 2014
Ms Berejiklian said that the lockout laws had made Sydney safer but it was now time to encourage the city’s 24-hour economy.
Sydney’s current lockout laws
Lock outs and last drinks: 1.30am lockouts and 3am last drinks at hotels, registered clubs, nightclubs and licenced karaoke bars
Temporary bans: of 48 hours for troublemakers
Takeaway alcohol sales: stop at 10pm for bottle shops, hotels and clubs. This law is NSW-wide
Liquor licenses: two year freeze on approvals for new and existing licenses.
Licensee fines: of up to $11,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months for failure to comply with the new laws.
Revoking of Competency cards and disqualifications: (up to 12 months) for bar staff breaching responsible service of alcohol requirements.
‘Sydney has transformed dramatically over recent years, and we need to ensure we have a strong and vibrant night-time economy that reflects our position as Australia’s only truly global city, she told reporters
‘While the extended trading hours will provide a boost for the night-time economy, community safety will always be a focus.’
The lockout laws were introduced by the NSW Government five years ago with the aim to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence following the fatal one punch attack on teenager Thomas Kelly in Kings Cross in 2012.
His killer Kieran Loveridge was sentenced to a minimum 10 years in prison.
Daniel Christie was also killed in an another one punch attack in Kings Cross while celebrating New Years Eve shortly before the laws were enforced in February 2014.
The crackdown brought the lively night-time economy to an abrupt standstill and forced almost 200 licensed venues to close their doors.
Under current laws, nightclubs and bars in the city, Kings Cross and Darlinghurst areas are required to deny entry to punters after 1.30am and cease serving alcohol at 3am.
At least 176 licensed venues across the Sydney CBD have closed their doors.
Other iconic venues such as the Oxford Art Factory in Oxford Street were forced to change their business model in order to survive.
At least 176 licensed venues across the Sydney CBD have closed their doors