Sydney considers loosening liquor laws

SYDNEY • The streets are no longer busy at all hours. There are fewer places to dance or hear live music at, but also fewer scenes of public drunkenness and violence.

Nearly five years after state legislation restricted the hours of alcohol service across the heart of Australia's largest city, Sydney is again struggling over rules, risk, fun and freedom.

Supporters argue that the laws, which generally restrict access to bars and clubs after 1.30am, have reduced assaults. Opponents counter that they have just pushed trouble to new places, while draining the city's heart of creativity.

At the core of the argument - which will intensify when lawmakers begin considering a repeal this week - is whether Sydney can be a great city without a 24-hour culture.

The laws' origins are rooted in tragedy.

On New Year's Eve in 2013, an 18-year-old was celebrating in the Kings Cross neighbourhood, then Sydney's red-light district, when a drunken stranger knocked him to the ground with a single blow that later killed him.

Another 18-year-old had died in Kings Cross after a punch in 2012.

A lobbying effort, spearheaded by the victims' families, led the premier of New South Wales to implement drinking restrictions and a curfew.

Across Sydney's busy centre, venues prohibit entry after 1.30am and stop alcohol service at 3am.

After a 2016 state review, a pilot programme now allows some venues to extend their hours by 30 minutes.

Liquor store sales in the lockout zone are now permitted until 11pm, instead of 10pm.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2018, with the headline 'Sydney considers loosening liquor laws'. Print Edition | Subscribe