Lockouts and layovers: the tale of a dying city

October 31, 2016

Bars are shutting down, suburbs are dying and talented staff are moving elsewhere. Depending on which study you’re reading, the lockouts have either curbed or increased violence in the city.


Concessions were kind of made for music venues and strip clubs, then they weren’t. Finally, in a move more concerned with good PR than problem solving, we’re getting a half hour extension to the lockouts. Yahoo. : |




After two years of fighting the government, it’s time to call it. These lockouts are here to stay.

At this point the government is too proud to admit fault. Even if they did, the damage has already been done. Although there are valiant women and men trying to protect our bars, we can’t ignore that the second Keep Sydney Open protest had half the turn out of the first. We’re tired. It pains me to say this but the Sydney we used to know and love is gone forever.


So what now? The Sydney bar scene is in a transitioning phase. Very soon the conversation will change from how do we save our nightlife, to what will Sydney’s reputation be once it’s gone?

Right now Sydney is the undisputed tourism capital of Australia. In the last survey, conducted by Austrade, it beat Melbourne by about a million international visitors annually and it currently stands proud next to New York, London and Paris as one of the world’s most notable cities. The 2000 Sydney Olympics gave us a nice economic boost, continuing to draw in international crowds for our art scene, entertainment sector and gorgeous coastal plains, but is that enough?


As we move forward there’s a tough question we need to answer: are we prepared for these lockouts to become part of our international identity? With every tourist that gets turned away at 1.30am we grow a reputation as a sobering city, a nanny state if you will. When those people go home they will have one piece of advice for their friends, if you’re visiting Australia to party make sure you go to Melbourne.


This will have serious consequences for our economic viability and culture. I think we underestimate how the nightlife of a city affects its overall vibe. Would you visit New York if you couldn’t spend the night bar-hopping? Would you go to Paris if you couldn’t fall in love in at sunrise? Would you visit London if you couldn’t wake up on the floor of a 500-year-old pub, like our like our grandfathers probably did? Think about those amazing travel stories your friends have told you, how many of them happened in a lock-out zone?


On the business side of travel, think about how much networking and decision making happens in crowded pubs and dimly lit wine bars. These are places where acquaintances become friends, where founders meet. What happens when a business can’t attract international talent because they don’t want to live in Sydney? What happens when more students go to Melbourne because the party life is better? Throughout the decades, the playful feud between our cities has always seen Sydney come out on top, maybe that’s all about to change.


These lockout laws will eventually define Sydney and they will convince a lot of people not to visit this iconic city. This brings us back to the original question: what now? Although these lockout laws have been a bad solution, it’s still the only one this government has. Keep Sydney Open has put several measures forward, however, most were deemed too expensive in the recent report by Ex Justice Ian Callahan.


These laws will change the face of Sydney moving forward and our days as the tourism capital of Australia are most certainly numbered.Lockouts are here to stay. Are we really prepared for their consequences?

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