NSW Police say there were no reports of alcohol-fuelled violence in Sydney’s CBD on a quiet first night after the city’s controversial lockout laws officially ended.
For the first time since 2014, Sydneysiders on Tuesday could enter CBD venues after 1.30am and order drinks until 3.30am.
The controversial laws were introduced in 2014 after the deaths of one-punch victims Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie.
Emergency service groups are concerned repealing the laws could lead to an increase in alcohol-fuelled violence.
A NSW Police spokeswoman confirmed the first night was incident-free, although the Australian Hotels Association said few people were out on a traditionally quiet Monday night.
NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres said the decision to repeal the lockout laws in mid-January was made to give venue owners time to plan for the new regulations.
“There’s been a cultural shift in the city’s nightlife since 2014 and it’s time to look towards a bright, safe, diverse Sydney after dark,” Mr Ayres said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Sydney is Australia’s only truly global city and can evolve to embrace an economy which is cranking around the clock.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian in November announced the changes which also remove restrictions on serving cocktails, shots and drinks in glasses after midnight, and scrap the 10pm curfew on bottle shops.
The last drinks curfew has been extended by 30 minutes to 3.30am – an extension which goes against the 3am curfew recommended by doctors.
Health Services Union NSW secretary Gerard Hayes warned the Berejiklian government had re-opened the “floodgates on Sydney’s rivers of grog”.
“Alcohol causes more harm to more Australians than any other drug,” Mr Hayes said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Without any doubt, there will be more people assaulted, more people hurt, and more lives damaged by winding back these sensible restrictions on the supply of alcohol at night.”
The AHA in NSW said it was an “exciting time” for Sydney and encouraged everyone to work together to re-invigorate the city.
“I would like to remind all venue operators to continue to be vigilant at all times to properly assess people for signs of intoxication before allowing entry to licensed premises,” AHA NSW liquor and policing director John Green said in a statement on Tuesday.
The change was also welcomed by the Sydney Business Chamber which said it would boost the city’s reputation amid persistent smoke haze from bushfires.
“It’s vital we begin making Sydney an exciting after-dark destination to regain lost tourism – as well as revitalising the many businesses that have suffered over the past four years,” executive director Katherine O’Regan said in a statement.
The laws have been lifted everywhere in the CBD except Kings Cross and will be reviewed in 2021.