Nicholas Grant

NSW State Government has announced their proposal to introduce a new range of laws and regulations later this year, which will greatly affect bars, clubs, hotels, and other venues. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 70% of businesses in the hospitality sector have had to reduce staff hours as a result of COVID-19. Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello stated that the proposed law reforms will hope to streamline the process for businesses to recover after months of devastating losses. “We want pubs, bars and hotels to hit the ground running on the other side.”

Currently, licensed venues operate under a three strikes scheme, where continual breaches of liquor laws can see managers or licensees lose their licenses. The new proposed laws will replace this scheme, with venues instead accumulating demerit points. A venue with more demerit points will see increased monitoring and stricter regulations than venues with a clean record. Other proposed changes include tighter laws around alcohol delivery services, and the authorisation of children to accompany adults until midnight in certain small bars and venues.

An additional and vital proposed change will be the removal of certain live music restrictions. Certain venues presently have restrictions on the permissible genres and/or instruments for live performances. These restrictions have historically created discontent for members of the hospitality and creative industries, with Australia’s Live Music Office calling to “remove archaic conditions relating to genre or specific musical instruments” in a 2018 inquiry.

Some groups have criticised this liquor law reform as insufficient and narrow. “The opportunity presented to the NSW Government by COVID-19 is to think more boldly about building our nightlife the right way – a ground zero approach if you like,” said Michael Rodrigues, chairman of the Night Time Industries Association. “This approach is all about alcohol, we also want a broader discussion about music, entertainment and tourism,” added John Graham, Shadow Minister for Tourism.

These will not be the first adjustments to liquor laws in 2020, with Sydney CBD’s infamous lockout laws finally being repealed in January after six years. Introduced by the Liquor Amendment Act (2014), 1:30am lockouts and bans on takeaway alcohol sales after 10pm were removed. This was to help stimulate Sydney’s nightlife, which was noted by the Sydney Business Chamber in a 2019 inquiry paper as “lagging far behind when compared to cities such as London, Tokyo, New York, Berlin and Shanghai. As Australia’s international gateway, it’s critical that Sydney provide a visitor experience that is at least on par with other global destinations.”