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West End divided over push to scrap late night 'lockout'

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The city council will vote on a motion calling for Adelaide’s lockout laws to be scrapped, as a push to axe the Labor-introduced measure gathers steam – but it’s been branded a “disgraceful and retrograde step” by a prominent West End stakeholder.

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Councillor Alexander Hyde says he is currently “going through engaging stakeholders” with a view to bringing a motion to council in the “very near future” calling for the Marshall Government to wind back laws banning patrons entering licensed premises after 3am.

The changes, which also prohibit the sale of certain drinks and require alcohol to be served in plastic rather than glassware, were brought in by the former Labor Government under its 2013 ‘Late Night Code’ designed to curb alcohol-fuelled violence on the city’s Hindley St strip.

InDaily reported yesterday that the Government would undergo “a comprehensive review of the Code, including lock out laws” next year, with Attorney-General Vickie Chapman noting that “any reforms to the Late Night Code will consider the importance of a vibrant nightlife in the city alongside community safety”.

Hyde told InDaily today “a lot of the club and bar owners” he’d canvassed were “very much in favour of getting rid of lockout laws”, a move he says could help balance the financial hit by a range of licence fee hikes introduced earlier this year.

“They’re very concerned about the State Government’s punitive liquor licensing fee increases [and] I see getting rid of the lockout laws as an opportunity, if the State Government are not going to pull back on those reforms,” he said.

“It would be an important step to help small businesses recoup some revenue, which could foot the bill for those [fee] increases.”

Hyde said he didn’t see the need for review because “we’ve seen interstate that the lockout laws haven’t achieved what they aimed to achieve”.

A NSW parliamentary committee this week released a report urging the Berejiklian Government to wind back similar – but more severe – lockout laws in that state.

SA Liberal backbencher Sam Duluk has spoken against the Adelaide lockout laws in state parliament in recent weeks.

Hyde, a Liberal member who has worked in Duluk’s office, said he had done some research work on the issue for the MP as it was “an area of shared interest”.

But Adelaide West End Association president Andrew Wallace branded the planned motion “disgraceful and deeply disappointing”, saying it would “set everything back five years”.

“We’re completely and utterly disappointed by this as a motion,” he told InDaily, arguing the lockout laws had been “extremely useful in terms of moving Hindley St forward in a positive direction”.

He said in addition to the influx of small bars under a new licensing regime the laws had helped strike a better balance between the “day and night time economies”.

“The hospitality sector has grown significantly,” he said.

“We know from talking to [daytime] traders that it was a nightmare opening on Saturday morning… we don’t want to go back to the bad old days.”

He said the introduction of the lockout measures had seen an initial drop-off in violent incidents, although that had since “plateaued”.

But he said overturning the measures was a “completely retrograde step”, dismissing arguments about over-regulation.

“It’s a load of ideological claptrap – there’s a reason we actually regulate the service of alcohol, because there are flow-on consequences to the community,” he said.

But Hyde argues the drop-off in anti-social behaviour is “more attributable to the declared public precinct zone that Hindley St is now”, since new police powers were introduced in 2017.

“While usually I wouldn’t support such draconian powers given to police to move people on and search people, it’s clear that it’s had a positive impact on the precinct,” he said.

James McIntyre, the co-owner of Hindley St small venue Peter Rabbit, is one trader who agrees the lockout laws should go.

While his bar is not directly affected by the 3am lockout, McIntyre says “Adelaide should be doing everything we can to promote economic activity and be a lively city”.

“I don’t think you can ever really stamp out anti-social behaviour, especially by punishing people who are doing the right thing,” he said.

“Removing red tape would be a good opportunity to create something new and exciting.”

Hyde said he would bring the motion to council after consulting more widely, including with SAPOL. A Police spokesman, however, told InDaily in a statement yesterday SAPOL “supports 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.”

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