Sydneysiders are likely familiar with the ‘lockout laws’ which have applied to the CBD and Kings Cross districts since 2014. In mid-September, the Honorable Ian Callinan AC QC (and retired Justice of Australia’s High Court) produced a report on the impact of the laws. Below, we revisit the lockout laws and summarise the report’s findings.

Background on Lockout Laws

In February 2014, the New South Wales government introduced the Liquor Amendment Act 2014 (NSW) amending the Liquor Act 2007 (NSW) and the Liquor Regulations 2008 (NSW) – NSW’s two primary sources of legislation on liquor licensing.

The main changes the 2014 amendments introduced include: 

  • Lockouts at 1:30 am at hotels, clubs, nightclubs and other venues in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross precincts (after this time there can be no re-entry to venues);
  • Stopping the service of liquor in these precincts at 3:00 am (importantly, the law already singled out these two areas for scrutiny);
  • A freeze on new licences in the CBD precinct (a freeze had already been in place for Kings Cross);
  • The introduction of a risk-based liquor licence fee; and
  • A prohibition on the sale of takeaway liquor after 10 pm, which applies throughout NSW.

These changes brought forth strong opinions from affected parties – both positive and negative.

The Report

The amended Act required the Minister appoint an independent person to review the impact of the changes after the two-year trial period. The enquiry accepted submissions from a broad church of interested parties and organisations – from hoteliers to community members to medical staff – looking at comparable cities and the impact of similar lockout policies. 

The report’s findings, broadly summarised, is that there were indeed reductions in violence, injuries and various ‘bad outcomes’ that it attributed, at least partly, to the lockout laws overall impact. It was somewhat critical of both licensees and the public for not adapting their offerings/behaviour to the new rules. But, nonetheless, was open to the possibility that not all the changes made were necessary to achieve the positive outcomes identified.

In other words, the report didn’t suggest adding prescribed areas, making lockout times earlier or reducing the number of licences granted. Rather, it leans more in the direction of determining whether the laws could be somewhat relaxed and still achieve the desired outcomes. In particular, it considered:

  • Allowing some entertainment venues to have lockout and closure times 30 minutes later (i.e. 2:00 am lockout and 3:30 am alcohol service limits);
  • Permitting take away sales until 11 pm; and
  • Permitting online home delivery of liquor until midnight.

Notably, the report cannot prescribe changes but merely comment and make suggestions. Ultimately, any decision as to what action to take rests with the NSW State government. 

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If you have any questions or need assistance navigating the maze of licences and other requirements to sell liquor, get in touch with our specialist liquor licensing lawyers on 1300 544 755.

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