Council wants larger, later small bars in lock-out zone

Baxter Inn, Darling Harbour. Pic: Facebook.


Sydney Mayor Clover Moore is asking NSW Premier Mike Baird to let small bars double in size and stay open later in liquor freeze zones.

City of Sydney Council is asking the state government to boost the small bar licence limits from 60 patrons to 120 and relax the restrictions on their trading hours for small bars in the Sydney CBD Entertainment Precinct, which stretches from Kings Cross to Cockle Bay, and The Rocks to Haymarket and Darlinghurst.

There are a fair few bars in that area, including Hello Sailor and the Baxter Inn, although the Council says only about 27 of the area’s 128 small bars operate under a small bar licence, the remainder running as general bars or restaurants.

The lock-out laws, which enforce 1.30am lock outs and last drinks at 3am, came into effect in early 2014, introduced to curb drug and alcohol-fuelled violence in the city but they are harsher for small bars in the Precinct and restrict them from operating beyond midnight, unless further approval is sought.

The council’s plea is contained in its submission to the Liquor and Gaming NSW Review of the Small Bars Legislation and borne from the desire to improve the long-term sustainability of small bars and encourage local live music.

City of Sydney CEO Monica Barone said Sydney’s night-time economy contributed more than $19 billion and more than 31,000 jobs.

“More than 2,124 licensed premises contribute to creating a vibrant and diverse nightlife, helping Sydney to compete on the global stage as one of the most liveable and inviting cities,” Barone said.

“Refining the small bars legislation to increase patron numbers and ensure flexibility in trading hours will help the small bar scene reach its full potential.”

Small bar licences fall under the Liquor Act 2007, which sets a capacity limit of 60 patrons. This has forced the hand of many small venues who have instead applied for an on-premises (restaurant) licence or a hotel (general bar) licence.

“Venues with a small bar licence can often face the challenge of sustaining live music and performances with these limited patron numbers,” Barone said.

“The City’s submission recommends redefining the small bar licence to increase capacity limits to 120, facilitating greater creativity and innovation in our smaller venues.”

Sydney’s lock-out laws have become a focal point for next month’s City of Sydney council elections with most mayoral candidates addressing it in their election platforms.

Current Mayor Clover Moore has called for exemptions from 1.30am lock-out laws and 3am last drinks for well-behaved small bars; Liberal candidate Christine Forster supports lifting the 1.30am ban and Independent Angela Vithoulkas wants to appoint a night mayor to drive the rejuvenation of the city’s night-time economy.

The council’s submission includes the following recommendations in response to the Review of Small Bars Legislation:

• Change the liquor licence definition of the Small Bar licence category to increase the capacity limit from 60 to 120 patrons
• Remove the restriction on trading hours for small bars in liquor freeze areas to allow standard trading hours to 2am, instead of midnight
• The availability of extended trading hours for small bars should be maintained, with each venue’s suitability for extended hours of operation assessed on application
• Continue the exemption for small bars from preparing a community impact statement
• Consider improved synchronising between the development and liquor licence assessment process, by allowing applicants to prepare a single plan of management to encompass the development consent and liquor licence aspects
• Consider providing further information on the types of business activities that a small bar licence holder may engage in, such as the provision of food and live music and performance, to increase awareness and potential uptake
• Reduce or remove the trading hours loading fee in the Periodic Licence Fee Scheme for small bar style venues up to 120 patron capacity. The loading fee is currently applied to small bar style venues with an on-premises (restaurant) licence or a hotel (general bar) licence that trade past midnight
• Consider research into licenced premises size and type to assess the impact on alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour

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