The Star casino is conveniently located just outside the lockout zone at Darling Harbour. So is the planned new Crown casino site at Barangaroo. While many important Sydney bars and clubs have been forced to shut down, and others struggle to survive, The Star is booming.
New South Wales Premier Mike Baird insists the casinos’ exemption will be discussed in the lockouts review when pushed on the issue. No one’s convinced of any legitimacy. Critics point to large donations from casino owners to the Liberal Party as evidence of the close ties between government and the gambling heavyweights.
The former president of the party in NSW also resigned from the position last year after landing a senior executive gig at The Star. The NSW government is directing all-night traffic to poker machines and blackjack tables and killing the kinds of small venues that allow artists like Flume, Flight Facilities and The Presets to hone their art in the process.
Unlike its NSW counterpart, the Victorian government is supporting the intimate and diverse bars and clubs that make world-class cities vibrant. There’s a freeze on granting new licenses to serve alcohol after 1am, with exemptions for small venues that serve food or feature live music.
Party leaders on both sides know Sydney-style laws would be a huge mistake. And Melbourne had its own brush with lockouts for three months in 2008: protestors took to the streets and the measure was found to be a failure by a government-commissioned report. Clubbers, DJs, business owners, hospitality workers (and those who generally think the government telling people they can play the pokies or go to bed is fucked up) in Sydney, Melbourne and around the world are hoping the review of Sydney’s lockouts will achieve the same result.
The City of Sydney has supported lockout exemptions for live music venues and well-run bars and clubs. It’s time the NSW government starts listening to its people instead of the dull casino “ka-ching” echoing through Sydney’s central streets at 3am.
We reckon the sound of house music would be much better.
Sydney’s lockout laws are up for independent review. Findings will be presented to the NSW government in August. Support Keep Sydney Open here
Scott Carbines is Australia's Digital Content Editor, follow him on Twitter