Sydney 'Lockout' Laws Review: Ex-Judge Recommends Extending Nightlife Hours

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Former High Court Judge Ian Callinan has recommended that the City of Sydney, Australia extend nightlife hours currently curtailed by the so-called "lockout laws" enacted as an amendment to Sydney's Liquor Act of 2007.

Inspired by a pair of deaths in the popular Kings Cross neighborhood in 2014, the amendments force venue operators to shut its doors by 1:30 am and cease the sale of alcohol at 3:30 am. Proponents of the policy say it's made the streets safer, but detractors point to a loss of vibrancy in the city's nightlife culture as well as loss of jobs for entertainers and the many occupations built to support them.

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Callinan was asked to investigate the claims of both, and while he found that the amendments had succeeded in statistically lowering violent crime and congestion, he also found some statistical weight to claims of cultural smothering.

"I am concerned that live entertainment and those employed in it (including sound and light technicians etc) have lost opportunities of employment," Callinan states in his full report. "I accept that opportunity for them to reclaim some, at least, of this loss should be considered and trialled. There is difficulty, however, in defining live entertainment and those necessarily employed in support of it."

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"In the end, and not without some hesitation," the report continues, "I have formed the opinion that whether the withdrawal or variation of the measures would impair the achievement of the legislative objectives could only be determined after a trial period and experience of them in a reduced form."

Callinan recommends a two-year trial extension of curfews by 30 minutes, so that venues may continue to allow new patrons in to enjoy "genuine entertainment" as late at 2 am and serve alcohol to those inside until 3:30 am.

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"A relaxation of the Amendments to this effect may go some way to an orderly restoration of vibrancy and employment opportunities in the Precincts," the report states. "It needs to be understood again however that such a relaxation carries the risk of greater density and consumption of more alcohol in the Precincts. It needs also to be understood that relaxing the Amendments, even in this way, involves risk."

It remains to be seen whether the City of Sydney acts on any of the recommendations, as well as whether or not nightclubs would be deemed "genuine entertainment venues." Curious minds can read the full report online.