This week, the Supreme Court ruled strip clubs and live music venues in the CBD will be exempt from the lockout laws.
The ruling comes in response to a legal challenge by CBD cocktail bar and restaurant The Smoking Panda. When the lockout laws were first introduced in 2014, the bar was exempt because it was located in Coronation Hotel, which is defined as a “tourism accommodation establishment”, that is, a hotel. This type of venue is exempt from the lockout laws.
But The Smoking Panda’s exemption was cancelled after an investigation by Liquor & Gaming NSW found some bar patrons were not hotel guests.
When the bar opened, the marketing materials it sent to Broadsheet did not position it as a hotel bar, and it was always clearly open to the public.
Justice Natalie Adams says the "tourism accommodation establishment" category hasn’t been properly defined, and the lockout legislation clauses were “not a proper exercise of the regulation-making power conferred upon the governor”.
Judge Adams says there is nothing in the correspondence by the police or the Office of Liquor & Gaming that indicates the bar was only allowed to serve residents of the hotel.
Additionally, the Liquor Amendment Regulation 2014, does not give a clear definition of a "tourism accommodation establishment" or whether these venues can only serve hotel patrons.
As a result, seven other venues in the city will also be operating according to pre-lockout regulations. The Smoking Panda would not comment when contacted, but posted on their Facebook page on August 25, saying “We are pleased to announce that we no longer have a lockout and we will be trading from Wednesday through till Saturday 4pm-5am, Tuesday’s 4pm until midnight. This is active from tonight and we look forward to seeing you guys down at the venue.”
When contacted by Broadsheet, Liquor & Gaming NSW sent the following statement:
“The NSW Government has launched an appeal against the decision.
It has also referred the decision to the Callinan Review of the lockout laws for consideration.
The decision was based on a technical legal argument in relation to the power of the Secretary of the NSW Department of Justice to declare a venue to be subject to the lockout and 3am cease service laws.
Up to 15 venues are potentially affected by the decision. Only eight are permitted to trade after 3am.
The lockout laws continue to apply to the vast majority of pubs, nightclubs and other high-risk venues in the CBD and Kings Cross.
Liquor & Gaming NSW compliance officers will be conducting operations in the CBD this weekend to monitor affected venues.
As the Government has launched an appeal against the Court decision, the names of relevant venues will not be publicly released.”
Whether this has a knock on effect for other bars challenging the laws, we’ll have to wait and see. Hopefully, it’s a step in the right direction for Sydney’s nightlife.