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Lifting Sydney’s lockouts: Eerie calm before the storm, or better times ahead?

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With recent media rightly focused on covering Australia’s devastating fires, the removal of lockouts from 14 January seems to have gone under the radar. It’s surprising and, to be quite honest, a little unsettling how little discussion has been circulating through social and mainstream media about the potential impact of these changes.

It’s been interesting to speak with venue owners, licensees and managers as I’m out and about. Some have a buoyed attitude towards the end of lockouts, while others maintain a cautious scepticism.

With last months’ article ‘Government loosens the noose around the CBD and Kings Cross. But… still ringing true, it got me thinking about how venues are preparing, what they’re expecting and how they will manage this vitally important transition period.

Each venue has its own issues, risks and nuances so each must prepare in their own way, guided by the local knowledge they have with respect to patron behaviours, community expectations, available resources, neighbourhood amenities, transport and location-specific issues etc.

At the end of the day, the success or otherwise of the lockouts being repealed, or in the government’s words “relaxed”, will simply come down to self-regulation and sound venue management practices. I know some venues, due to their licensed trading hours and location, are considering numerous options including a variation of self-imposed lockouts, limits to patron numbers after certain times, changes to security numbers and use, drink restrictions, pass outs and more. This is reassuring as it shows venues may be heeding the warning signs and proceeding forward cautiously.

What will work best for your venue? How do you find the right mix?

These questions are almost impossible to answer because the general public’s response to Sydney’s doors being opened a little wider is the great unknown. Will we see a reckless bucks/hens first week or more a thoughtful planned honeymoon from the public? In other words will we get a sudden flood of bullish activity, or a more gradual revitalisation of nightlife as patrons adapt to the new freedoms.

Is this the calm before the storm, or the start of better days ahead?

Ultimately only time will tell, but with other reforms to follow such as incentive schemes to reward safe well-managed venues, we really can’t afford to get this wrong.

Let’s face it, the future of lockouts in Kings Cross and other restrictions being lifted will rely on venues’ ability to satisfactorily demonstrate their culture of compliance and safety and win back that trust over the 12-month government review timeframe.

If we succeed as an industry, I am optimistic that over time Sydney can rebuild a vibrant nightlife and Australia can develop true 24hr cities that attract local and international guests, and business investment.

Jason Thomas is a Founding Director of AusComply, an Australian-owned digital incident register and compliance platform. He was a former inspector and senior member of Audit and Compliance for the NSW Police. Get in touch via AusComply.com.au, 1300 2 COMPLY, or info@auscomply.com.au.

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