Booze bans: sucking the fun out of Sydney

Charlie Pearson

Topics Politics

Two years ago, following the tragic, one-punch death of Daniel Christie on New Year’s Eve 2013, the government of New South Wales in Australia introduced an array of measures to make the streets of central Sydney safer.

The rules, which are now up for review after being in place for two years, mean that pubs and clubs in certain areas of Sydney must not allow new patrons inside after 1.30am, must not serve shots after midnight and must not serve any alcohol at all after 3am. There is also a ban on selling takeaway alcohol after 10pm.

The impact of these new laws has been shocking. A number of nightclubs and late-night venues in the world-renowned King’s Cross, Oxford Street and Darlinghurst areas of the city have shut down in the past two years.

The clampdown hit headlines again recently when the New South Wales premier, Mike Baird, responded to this 8,000 word essay by Sydneysider Matt Barrie. Baird offered an unapologetic defence of the laws last week, pointing to the reduction in alcohol-related assaults.

Both sides of the argument have thrown stats at each other in the days since Baird’s response, and some of the most telling statistics can be found in Matt Barrie’s essay. The ways in which Sydney City Council fudged numbers in various reports relating to the lockout laws make for particularly interesting reading. After all, as many have pointed out, alcohol-related assaults were already decreasing before the clampdown began.

If there is something positive to be taken from this spat, it is the support members of the public have shown for the right of intelligent adults to make their own decisions. It has finally been made clear that it should be up to the people of Sydney to decide whether they have a few glasses of wine with dinner or drink rum and Coke until 4am. To take this decision away from them smacks of a puritanical attitude that punishes the many for the sins of the very few.

Baird’s dismissive quip, that ‘the main complaints seem to be that you can’t drink till dawn anymore ‘, shines a light on just how blithely authoritarian these rules are. The New South Wales authorities feel they have the right to decide when, where, what and how much people drink. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think it’s the state’s job to police my liver.

No matter how many times supporters of the booze ban claim they are just trying to protect us, the truth remains that these draconian laws have sucked the fun out of a fantastic city. The people of Sydney shouldn’t be treated like would-be criminals just for wanting to party until the sun comes up.

Charlie Pearson is a writer based in Australia.

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Topics Politics


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