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Friday, April 23, 2021

Newcastle’s lockout laws to be lifted

Novocastrians – young and old – will certainly toast this decision.

Patron lockout and trading hour restrictions are set to be lifted across Newcastle pubs as part of a trial aimed at boosting the City’s night-time economy.

NSW Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello, Newcastle state MP Tim Crakanthorp and Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Taylor Martin joined forces to make the announcement today (Wednesday 31 March).

The “probationary period” will see Novocastrians and visitors enjoy the same freedoms as people in other parts of the state, setting the scene for the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority to consider a permanent relaxation of limits on a case-by-case basis.

A comprehensive evaluation of Stage 2 of the trial to examine the impacts on the City’s financial outcome, and the community, is scheduled to be completed by September 2022.

“Newcastle is an engine room of our state’s economy and it’s not fair to leave the City’s night life stuck in 2008,” Mr Dominello said.

“Where there are incidents of alcohol-related violence arising from late trading hotels, we need to respond with targeted interventions.

“Gone are the days of blanket bans across an entire city – what’s good enough for Sydney is good enough for Newcastle.”

Stage 2 follows a successful six-month trial for participating small bars and restaurants.

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes said the government had made sure that the planning system was agile enough to respond to the changing needs of local economies as a result of the pandemic.

“We learned from the trial that allowing small bars to open until 2am and restaurants until midnight improved trade significantly,” he admitted.

“Not only does this help create local jobs at a time when Newcastle needs it most, but it has led to a livelier city centre after dark.”

Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said it was important to balance public safety with the needs of businesses.

“Community safety remains the NSW Government’s number one focus. Despite the changes, NSW Police will continue to maintain law and order,” he stated.

“This is not by any means a green light for the criminal element to return to Newcastle.

“We will closely monitor changes in the area and will not accept a return to any sort of violence.”

Building on the success of stage one of the trial, stage two will include relaxation of:

  • Lockout conditions, so patrons can enter pubs after 1am until closing time;
  • Liquor trading hours to be extended from 3am to 3.30am, provided development consent is in place to allow the venue to stay open; and
  • Restrictions to be lifted on the types of drinks that may be served, allowing higher strength cocktails, neat spirits and shooters.

“Special licence conditions, including late-night lockouts, were imposed on 14 high-risk pubs 13 years ago to curb alcohol related violence,” Mr Dominello said.

“Many of the conditions were later extended to more pubs in Hamilton.

“The proposed stage two trial will again need to be a joint effort by the government, NSW Police, council and industry.

“While community safety is the main priority, these types of initiatives are helping to ensure businesses have the ability to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to thrive.”

The NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority will invite hotels and public entertainment venues to participate in stage two of the trial, which is expected to begin mid-year and run for 12 months.

Relaxed conditions for small bars and restaurants will remain in place until January next year giving venues enough time to apply for permanent modifications.

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