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"Time to bin them": City 'lockout laws' face review

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UPDATED | South Australia’s ‘late night code’ will face a comprehensive review as senior Liberals push for an end to the contentious ‘lockout laws’ introduced by the former Labor government in a bid to curb alcohol-fuelled violence in the city’s west.

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SA led the way with lockout laws in 2013 with a ban on patrons entering venues after 3am, as well as a restriction on the sale of certain drinks and a ban on glassware after 4am.

New South Wales went further a year later, with a 1.30am lockout and last drinks called at 3am in the CBD entertainment precinct.

But the report of a Liberal-chaired NSW parliamentary committee released this week recommended most of the changes should be “removed urgently”, ending the lockout, removing restrictions on the use of glassware and scrapping a midnight ban on strong drinks and shots.

Reflecting on that report, Adelaide’s Deputy Lord Mayor Houssam Abiad, a Liberal Party member, pondered on Facebook this week whether SA’s lockout laws were “hurting our night economy in Adelaide”.

“I have done a fair bit of consultation with local industry leaders and the vast majority don’t support them,” he wrote, asking whether it was “time to bin them”.

Prominent Liberal backbencher Sam Duluk seems to think so, telling InDaily he was preparing a paper on the matter to bring to the party-room.

“I’m keen to see a review into lockout laws on the back of what’s happening in Sydney,” he said.

“The night economy is an important part of the state economy, as is the hospitality industry, and it’s timely to undertake a review of lockout laws to see if the changes brought in by the former government have been effective, and review how we enjoy nightlife and consume liquor.”

Duluk said he believed several on the Liberal side would support the removal of the lockout. In a recent parliamentary debate, he said an “influx of individuals” onto Hindley St looking for taxis was “one of the unintended consequences of lockout laws at the moment”, adding: “More broadly, there is an issue of choice as well, in terms of whether citizens have the right to regulate their own behaviour to the extent that it does not impinge on the rights of other individuals.”

He said a controversial new licensing fee structure introduced this year that hits late-night operators, in line with recommendations from a 2016 review by former Supreme Court judge Tim Anderson, could make the government-imposed lockout redundant in any case.

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman told InDaily in a statement the Marshall Government was “currently working through minor amendments to the Late Night Code in accordance with recommendations arising from the Anderson Liquor Licensing Review” but that there would be a “more comprehensive review of the Code, including lock out laws” in 2020.

“Evidence to date from hospitals and SAPOL shows that the lock out period has had a positive impact on harm minimisation,” she said.

“In contrast to Sydney, where last drinks are served at 3am and patrons are locked out at 1.30am, South Australian licensed premises can serve alcohol for as long as they are licensed and open, but cannot admit new patrons after 3am.

“In addition, the renaissance of Adelaide’s small bar scene can be attributed in large part to the establishment of Small Venue Licenses, which are only authorised to trade until 2am.

“Any reforms to the Late Night Code will consider the importance of a vibrant nightlife in the city alongside community safety.”

Anderson’s review suggested SA’s lockout provisions be retained “for a further two or three years to allow for their effect to be assessed over a longer term”.

Hotels’ Association boss Ian Horne noted Adelaide’s lockout laws were not as onerous as the “extraordinarily severe” ones in Sydney, but still had a localised impact as “the only places that trade after 3am are on or about the late night precinct of Hindley Street and North Terrace, and parts of Currie St”.

Horne agreed that the new fee structure “may be as effective as any lockout”, but said: “We’d welcome a review of the whole reasoning for a lockout.”

“Melbourne has never embraced one, they’ve always said ‘we’re alive and open’ and they do well with that,” he said.

Horne said the lockout laws took the issues of late-night violence from the clubs to the streets, saying: “We’re not convinced that the stats show there’s been any significant change in behaviours.”

“It’s a reasonable expectation to have a look at it, and cut the emotion out of it,” he said.

“These sorts of things should never be left in place forever.”

But a SAPOL spokesperson said in a statement police “support the lockout laws, as they are a valuable tactic when dealing with anti-social behaviour and violent behaviour, which can result in serious bodily injury or death”.

“The late night trading code of practice that introduced lockout laws from licensed premises in October 2013 has had a positive impact on alcohol-related violence in the CBD,” they said.

“A decrease in alcohol-fueled violence has shown that the lockout laws have attributed [sic] to making the Adelaide CBD a safe place to enjoy a night out.”

They said police “continue to work closely with stakeholders, including Consumer and Business Services, local councils and other emergency services to ensure licensed premises are managed in accordance with relevant legislation”.

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