Panel Urges Easing of Sydney Alcohol Laws That Curbed Violence but Hit Economy

By Hans Lee

October 02, 2019

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Sydney's business district should be freed of restrictions that have successfully curbed alcohol-related violence in Australia's largest city but hurt its economy and nightlife, a parliamentary panel recommended on Monday.

The measures, introduced in 2014, denied entry to bars and pubs after 1:30 a.m. and banned the sale of alcoholic drinks after 3 a.m.

The panel recommended the removal of those restrictions in Sydney's central business district but said they should be retained in the Kings Cross district, which had been a hotspot for alcohol-related violence before the measures.

Consultancy firm Deloitte estimated the so-called lockout laws had cost Sydney's economy as much as A$16 billion ($10.8 billion) a year.

"Repealing lockouts in the central business district and Oxford Street is an important first step that will breathe oxygen into Sydney's night life," the city's mayor, Clover Moore, said.

People arguing to retain the laws cited a sharp cut in alcohol-fuelled violence in the regulated areas, as well as a safer environment for emergency workers.

Those opposed told the panel the laws had killed the city's night life and hit the viability of the music and creative arts industries.

Gladys Berejiklian, premier of the state of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, indicated this month that she supported an easing of restrictions.