Queensland bars and clubs will be prohibited from selling shots and high alcohol content drinks after midnight, under new rules intended to curb alcohol-fuelled violence in that state.
From 1st July, patrons will also be prevented from buying alcohol after 2am or 3am in ‘safe night’ precincts.
A spokesman for Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath has defended the laws, saying:
“Evidence from around the world and here in Australia shows us the most significant factor in reducing alcohol-fuelled violence in our communities is reducing the amount of time that alcohol is served after midnight in our liquor-licensed venues.”
Death of Sydney’s Nightlife
The NSW response to alcohol-fuelled violence was to ban people from entering pubs and clubs after 1.30am in certain areas, to prevent bars and clubs from serving alcoholic drinks after 3am and to prohibit takeaway alcohol sales after 10pm.
The laws have led to the closure of hundreds of businesses in the CBD and Kings Cross areas, and pushed violence to nearby suburbs like Newtown and Pyrmont.
Lockout laws have been instrumental in causing the death of Sydney’s once-vibrant nightlife, and have now led the NSW government to reconsider the laws.
By the same token, BOSCAR director Don Weatherburn says the laws have led to a 32% drop in assaults in Kings Cross and a 26% fall in Sydney CBD.
But that drop comes at a price – the City of Sydney has reported an 80% decrease in evening foot traffic in affected areas including the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross.
Ms D’Ath says alcohol is a factor in 21.1% of all offences against the person in Queensland – pointing out that in 2015, there were 5,229 alcohol-related assaults, 427 alcohol-related sexual offences and three alcohol-related homicides.
She expects alcohol-fuelled violence to fall by 20% for every hour bars and clubs close early, although these figures fail to consider the any shifting of the problem to other areas or inside homes.
Dr John Crozier from the Alliance for Action on Alcohol has also defended the proposed new laws, saying:
“They’re not draconian. They will reliably decrease the range of alcohol-related harm,” he said. “This is a national tragedy which we have to draw a line and curb.”
As a result of the economic effects of NSW lockout laws, former High Court Judge Ian Callinan been been appointed to oversee a review. Mr Callinan will report to the NSW government in August, although Premier Mike Baird says it will take a lot to convince him to wind back the laws.
NSW has been criticised for its paternalistic approach towards its citizens, earning the title of “the Nanny State”. Australian entrepreneur Matt Barrie wrote an online essay attacking these laws, gaining 200,000 views in under 24 hours. Mr Barrie believes politicians are on a “moralistic crusade” and are turning Sydney into an “international joke”.
Kings Cross Liquor Accord Chief Executive, Douglas Grand, hopes the NSW review will take into account the enormous economic impact of the laws, including the “massive effect on jobs and the local community”.
The Queensland’s music and bar industry has expressed grave concerns that there will be a similar impact in that state.
Alternatives to Lock-out Laws
Lindsay McDougal, a presenter on Triple J and former guitarist for Aussie punk band Frenzel Rhomb, believes lock-out laws are:
“… like using a nuclear bomb to swat a particularly large fly… There’s going to be a lot of other things killed in the process… there’s a lot more issues than just alcohol and staying up late that causes these things.”
Federal Greens candidate Kirsten Lovejoy has called for alternatives to the laws, including better public transport, more policing, safer taxi ranks, responsible drinking laws and support for smaller music venues.
Spokesperson for ‘Keep Sydney Open’, Tyson Koh, says our city needs to wind-back the laws and implement sensible strategies such as those used in New York, Vancouver and Amsterdam, including 24 hour public transport, more visible policing in nightlife precincts, staggered venue closing times and later dining and retail hours.
Despite these sensible suggestions, it seems Queensland is determined to follow in Sydney’s footsteps.