Yesterday afternoon Pixie Weyand, owner of Brisbane institution The Zoo, took to Facebook to announce the storied live music venue would now be closing at midnight.
But the post doubled as an indictment of Queensland’s ID scanning laws, which have prompted Weyand to make the change.
“It is with much thought and consideration that we have made the choice to say bye-bye to those inefficient, inaccurate, expensive (useless) scanners,” the post read. “They put unnecessary strain on small businesses, Brisbane's nightlife and live music venues.
“Since the implementation of the new liquor licensing laws, hands of small businesses have been tied,” it continued. “With this decision comes our reduced trading hours to a 12am close, that in itself brings its own challenges for an independently owned business like The Zoo.”
The ID scanning laws were introduced in July last year as a compromise measure after the state government’s repeal of the previous 1am lockout law. The laws require all patrons to carry ID to enter late-night licensed venues in Queensland’s Safe Night Precincts.
Talking to Broadsheet this afternoon, Weyand says the decision has been a long time coming.
“When they were first introduced, it was a question we raised at that point,” she says. “It was really just a monitoring process over the course of time we’ve had the scanners.
“We finally made the decision about two weeks ago. We thought, ‘We’re not making any money after twelve o’clock and the scanners are costing us more money than we’re making.' So it was really just a logical business decision.”
Behind the call were the costs involved with running a scanner and the hiring of a licensed operator, usually an extra security guard. Weyand describes perverse scenarios where the venue was closing at 10pm on a Thursday night to avoid having to operate a scanner, rather than simply trading without the scanners until 12am (the law requires late-night licensed venues to set up the scanners from 10pm onwards; non late-night venues can simply trade until midnight without scanners).
The Zoo’s central business as a music venue, as opposed to a bar, was also causing issues: “With the scanners, if you don’t have ID, you flat out can’t come in,” Weyand says. “We’re a paid venue. So people are paying up to $50 or $100 to come see a show and they’re clearly over 18 – in their 40s and 50s – and it’s embarrassing for us to say, ‘Sorry you can’t come in.’ These are responsible adults, a lot of them sober.
“I feel a little bit like our common sense and judgement as humans has been taken away from us and given to a machine to make these choices. It just bugs me.”
Other issues included ID scanning bringing lines to a standstill just as the major act for a night is hitting the stage, and the requirement for punters to stand in line a second time after briefly exiting the venue for a cigarette or fresh air. “It just would’ve been nice if you’ve been scanned once you can show a stamp and be let back in,” Weyand says.
Early today, a spokeswoman for attorney-general Yvette D'Ath told the Brisbane Times it was The Zoo's choice to no longer use the scanners, but vowed to continue working with businesses to improve safety in and around licensed venues. “Ultimately it is up to an individual business to decide its trading hours, based on its patronage,” she said in a statement to the paper.
Weyand smarts at this. “Yes, we have a choice but it comes at a significant financial cost,” she says. “We don’t have a choice but to use the scanners and with that a high level of financial outputs, which just doesn’t make sense.”
In the same report, the shadow attorney-general David Janetzki said The Zoo was a casualty of the Labor government’s lack of consultation with the live music industry.
“The Zoo and their employees are yet another sad casualty of Annastacia Palaszczuk’s botched ID scanner laws,” he said in a statement to the Times. “Labor refused to consult with industry before bringing ID scanners in, they refused to listen to industry’s problems once the laws came in and now venues are shutting up shop early to avoid the hassle.”
Weyand says the move to drop the scanners won’t actually have too much of an effect on the way The Zoo already operates on a nightly basis. Main acts were usually finishing at midnight anyway, meaning it’s now simply a case of security clearing punters out by 12.30am.
Still, she laments the lack of consultation and one-size-fits-all approach. “I get really frustrated when people call us a nightclub,” Weyand says. “We don’t have DJs. We’re a live music venue and that’s all we do. We’re a creative community that collaborates on things including a live music. We’re not a place to go get fucked up.”