Lockout laws lifted for Kings Cross after ‘transformation’ — but some in Sydney remain cautious



Kings Cross was once notorious for its history of bloodshed and was known by many as the precinct which shut down Sydney’s nightlife seven years ago.

While much of the city has enjoyed late entry into clubs and extended last drinks for more than a year, the entertainment district is now finally allowed to re-join Sydney after dark.

On the first weekend since the lifting of the last remaining lockout laws, local businesses are optimistic of an increase in late-night trade, but aren’t expecting sudden change.

Hamilton Kings, owner of Potts Point bar Honkas, said venues were preparing the neighbourhood to be “a safer, better place to be than what it was 10 years ago”.

“Back in those days, people were a bit more arrogant, which is not necessarily a great factor,” Mr Kings said.

TV Footage of a man being restrained by NSW Police
Violence dropped by 53 per cent after the 2014 laws came into effect.(ABC TV)

The laws — which effectively enforced a curfew on drinking and opening hours across the CBD — were introduced in 2014 by then-premier Barry O’Farrell.

After the one-hit punch deaths of Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie, Mr O’Farrell introduced sweeping restrictions across the city in a bid to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence.

Before last Monday, patrons weren’t able to enter pubs, bars and nightclubs after 1:30am. 

The 3:00am “last drinks” has been extended to 3:30am however, and blanket restrictions on certain drinks, shots, discounted cocktails and use of glass after midnight have already been lifted. 

Assaults in Kings Cross dropped by 53 per cent across a five-year period, according to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR).

But it also devastated the city nightlife. Several iconic establishments in Kings Cross and at Potts Point permanently closed in light of plummeting patron numbers.

Lockout law rally
In 2019, thousands of people attended a rally in Sydney to oppose the strict lockout laws.(ABC News: Jean Kennedy)

Mr Kings hoped history would not repeat itself.

“It’s a different ilk, a lot of the owners are different to back then, the management’s very different,” he said.

“There’s far more collaboration between the licensing police and the business owners.”

The state government believes the precinct has “transformed considerably” and hopes lifting the lockout will be able to drive economic growth in the area.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she wanted the Cross to rise as a night-time hub once again.

“The precinct is now well-positioned to continue to evolve into a vibrant lifestyle,” she said.

Some sectors, however, aren’t celebrating a return to form.

St Vincent’s Hospital director of emergency Paul Preisz remembered the “conveyor belt of carnage” that was Kings Cross.

An older man in an emergency department.
Paul Preisz said he hoped people had learnt from Kings Cross’ violent past.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito )

He witnessed “terrible things” before the introduction of lockout laws, but admitted the neighbourhood was different.

“Things have changed, the area’s changed, some of the venues aren’t there anymore, other venues have started,” he said.

“I hope we’ve learnt a little bit about how people are and how we can organise.”

Although he doesn’t expect the violence to peak on opening night, his staff are standing by with caution.

“What we’re expecting may not be an instant thing, it might be something we notice over time rather than immediately,” Dr Preisz said.

“We’d be looking for a trend rather than an explosion.”

The changes will be reviewed in 12 months after they come into effect.


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