Sunday, March 27, 2016

And the banners flapped lonely in the wind - licensing laws and Sydney's growing sterility

Back in February (Nanny State notes) I wrote on the NSW liquor licensing laws and especially the Sydney lock-out provisions. Meantime, the discussion has rolled on: this is a recent example.

Unlike the increasing smoking restrictions, the liquor licensing laws are not something that affects me personally to any great extent because I don't go out a lot at night and especially late at night. My visits to central Sydney are also relatively infrequent and then generally during daylight hours.

I have been aware in a general sense of the impact of the restrictions. The other night, for example, I had dinner at my cousin's place at Potts Point. Walking back through Kings Cross to catch my train, I was struck by just how few people there were on the streets in what had once been a vibrant night-life area  and by the number of closed places. Convenience stores seem to have replaced venues.

At Easter lunch I was educated on the sheer complexity of the current licensing regime. I was simply staggered. I had no idea.

By way of general background, most young people have to work to support themselves though university. In this context, hospitality is by far the largest source of part time work. So young people are affected by the laws at two very different levels, as workers and as customers. Amongst the group at lunch, one worked in the casino, a second managed a bottle shop, a third worked in a bar, a fourth had worked in a pub.There was clearly a high degree of angst about the laws.

There were old and new themes in the conversation. The special treatment given to the casino was highlighted, as was the absurdity of measurements that claimed the decline in alcohol related incidents in the Cross as a success for the laws when the people just weren't there any more. The closing of so many bars and venues meant fewer jobs, as well as reduced nightlife options. The Sydney lock-outs had pushed people and business outside the lock-out zone, creating new problems there. Alcohol consumption among the resident young had been falling anyway. People just wanted to enjoy themselves. Here there were the usual unflattering comparisons between Sydney and Melbourne.

These were familiar themes, but there were others: the need now to carry special ID if you were working in bars and the problems that could arise as well as the cost; the perversity and unfairness of the way the the three strikes law was interpreted; new problems of legal liability for staff as well as venues; inconsistencies and over-rigour in the way that police interpreted the regulations.The list went on. I really didn't understand the complexities that had been created.

On Saturday, eldest and I visited Sydney's Domain and then walked on to have lunch at Circular Quay near the Opera House.

There is no doubt that the Harbour and adjoining parklands including the Domain in particular are truly beautiful. This area was crowded with people and especially tourists enjoying themselves.

Once you leave the narrow tourist strip, however, things change. Walking back from the Quay to catch the bus, the streets were almost deserted. All the shops were shut, there were no bars or restaurants, there were no cars or cyclists, few pedestrians. In Martin Place, the Sydney City Council banners proclaiming that Martin Place was now proudly smoke free flapped lonely in the wind; it felt like Melbourne used to feel on a Sunday, closed for the day.


This story from Commercial Real Estate describes some of the venues that have closed..


Davis Christie, Christian Nazie Alliance Party said...

I am a nazi and I loudly applaud a fellow nazi's stance on drinking and anything related. Its about time the religious right in this state flexed their political muscle and bought to heal those sinners who seek to destroy our values. I also believe women who have abortions should be tried and convicted of murder. Why anyone needs to drink alcohol at all is beyond me. And people should be at home at night not out about cavorting with others. Someone needs to teach our children values. We should be grateful that Kings Cross is closing down. Thanks for bringing this to our attention Mike and Fred.

Jim Belshaw said...

Good morning, David. Thank's for the chuckle.