Goodnight Sydney – or 7 things we can do

In a special article for the Australian pub industry, Sam Coffey offers a staged solution he believes will see business improve to standards higher than prior to the lockout trade restrictions, including increased revenue and patron experience, and a safer, happier, more productive community, with an increased experience of wellbeing.

Sam Coffey of 3 Cheers Training is a dedicated and passionate advocate for the educated management of patrons in venues consuming alcohol.

3 Cheers want to see Sydney celebrated as an innovative world leader in hospitality.

There’s a better way to do things than the lockout laws that’s a win for business, a win for patrons, a win for the community and therefore a win for the authorities too.

The lockout laws and the accompanying restrictions on trade (e.g. no shots after midnight), were a mistake, an overreaction and a knee jerk reaction that are now at risk of spreading further throughout the industry. They not only negatively affect late trade, but earlier trade too, as well as the overall reputation of the area and city into which they are imposed.

I have written this article in honour of the seven years ‘Special Alcohol Management Service’ (SAMS) has been working on trying to get industry to take the initiative away from the authorities, so that a) the lockouts would not be required in the first place, and now b) that the lockouts can be rolled back.



1) Admit there’s a problem that needs fixing

There’s a lot of good things about the licensed venue hospitality industry in Sydney, but there is also room for substantial improvements in the area of patron management. This is true around the world.

The industry has generally been in denial that there was anything that needed fixing in the first place. This was wrong when this whole thing kicked off, and is almost as equally wrong now. Alcohol-related injury and illness, lost productivity, drunkenness on the streets – these types of things are problems that required addressing back then and still do now.

Also, the authorities need to recognise there are things they can do better to positively contribute to better outcomes. Amazingly, police received little or no scrutiny for the lack of policing that effectively contributed to Daniel Christie and Thomas Kelly being killed on the streets of the Cross.

2) Industry to recognise themselves as one and come together

The various hospitality industries are big, and not united under one umbrella. The only common body between them is Liquor & Gaming NSW, which basically represents the law. This makes the industry’s main concern compliance rather than hospitality. Great hospitality naturally sees correct compliance.

Businesses must take responsibility for their role in the overall problems, such as putting people out on the street who have been unmanaged and at or approaching intoxication, to cause trouble on the street, the next venue, or even at home.

Every licensed venue in the industry needs a holistic viewpoint of their role within the bigger picture, and have one another’s back in protecting the industry as a whole.

3) Recognise areas that can be done better

Some things that sound small actually make a massive difference on the ground. These are in the management of patrons, and the significant things we can do to guide them to best outcomes.

Present practise in most licensed venues is to leave patrons to themselves until obvious problems arise. Our SAMS program is about teaching hospitality workers to guide patrons so that problems don’t come up in the first place.

Another approach would be to standardise how we respond to situations, with consistent best approaches. This is something that hasn’t been done en-masse anywhere in the world. It is something we try to do, through theory and practical scenarios, developed in real venues – everything from general service to saving a patron from intoxication.

4) Get rid of the cultural cringe factor and lead

Many point out that there are no restrictions overseas on alcohol service, which misses the basic point that there are still problems overseas around alcohol service.

There are cities around the world where measures have been put in place to help curb anti-social behaviour, or where they separate the night time economy from residential areas. Amsterdam is an example that gets brought up, in particular its night hosts that wander the streets.

Australia needs to have a crack and trust in herself to address issues with alcohol.

5) Take the initiative

The industry in Sydney, the licensed venues, have to get together as a unit and take this issue by the scruff of the neck if there’s going to be traction. A solution will take implementation – a roll-up-your-sleeves and get in there approach. If venues don’t apply themselves, nothing will work.

To date, industry has largely been sitting on its hands complaining, before organising to complain louder. The lockouts were an overreaction that have caused mass damage to the industry, and Sydney’s reputation nationally and internationally, but complaint must be accompanied by innovation – putting in real measures and solutions that add to the hospitality patrons receive, that increase business, and that contribute to the community experience.

Scanning machines, lockouts, restrictions on drink sales like shots are unnecessary if staff are on their game.

6) Put a Special Alcohol Management Service system into place at all licensed venues

Individual staff members in venues represent links of a chain, and a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The same principle applies for the industry, where each venue is a link.

The best outcomes with our SAMS course come when all staff members go through the training and implement it properly both in the venues and on surrounding streets.

We seek to demonstrate the clear positive changes, and bring the public back on board. A collaborative approach to this kind of training could make Sydney a we’re all even more proud to call home.

7) Lobby the government and the public

Increasing the public’s hospitality experience, showcasing to them their increased safety and the fun times to be had will help them recognise the safest places to go drinking and socialising. This is something that any licensed venue should see the benefit of achieving.

By lobbying both the public and the government in this way, with time I predict more autonomy will be given back to the industry, and relaxed trading restrictions. The result will be a better and safer drinking culture. Business will thrive. Sydney will be celebrated.


Cheers to Patrons. Cheers to Business. Cheers to the Community

Sam Coffey


For the full, unabridged article by Sam Coffey, see here.

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