Minister for Racing Paul Toole announced the O’Farrell government’s ban would be lifted to give venues and bartenders greater flexibility to showcase their skills, including serving cocktails not listed on the menu.
“Bartenders are rightly proud of their trade, and by removing this restriction, we are encouraging Sydney’s small bars to innovate and flourish,” Toole said in an official statement. “The changes recognise small bars in Sydney have good compliance records and a low risk of alcohol-related violence.”
Keep Sydney Open director Tyson Koh tells Broadsheet it’s a positive move forward but there’s still a lot more work needed to improve Sydney’s nightlife.
“Banning unmixed drinks after midnight meant that the government was not only dictating when and where you could drink, but also what and how,” Koh says. “Many venues in the city must still adhere to these rules but relaxing them in small bars is a positive step, and one that shows Keep Sydney Open's message is being heard.”
This concession comes at the same time as a revised state-wide Three Strikes disciplinary scheme, also applicable from October 1, which can remove liquor licences from operators after three warnings.
“It's now better for venues but not so great for licensees and managers. Reckless operators are so rare, however, so it shouldn't cause too many issues,” says Koh.
For Koh, the most disappointing part of the reviewed regulations is the extension of the liquor licence freeze in the CBD and Kings Cross until June 2018. Introduced in 2009, this restriction stops venues from getting a licence, extending trading hours, transferring licences into the precincts or applying to serve liquor without food.
“So many areas of the inner-city are dead with ‘for lease’ signs everywhere. Bars are a way to attract people to an area, which helps restaurants, retailers, cabbies and other people who just want to earn a living,” says Koh.
Sven Almenning (owner of Eau de Vie and Mjølner) tells Broadsheet lifting the ban is not a win when considering the high volume of businesses that have closed in Kings Cross and Darlinghurst in the last three years.
“I think celebrating [the lift] as a win allows these guys to make token little contributions to keep the masses and the industry quiet. There’s nothing to celebrate,” Almenning says.
“The fact that you can go out and have a whisky after midnight isn’t going to put more people in bars. It’s not going to change people’s habits of going out, it’s not going to contribute to the culture. It just kind of says that, to some degree, a tiny level of common sense has been applied to how the night time economy in Sydney is managed.
“People can celebrate and say ‘at least it’s something’ but to me it’s like giving a tiny crumb to a starving family,” he says.
The next Keep Sydney Open event, Meet Me In Darlo, will be held on October 21–22 in Darlinghurst. Restaurants, pubs and retailers will be uniting for to counteract the effects of the lockout laws.