Sydney gets its mojo back: night life post lockout laws

Sydney gets its mojo back: night life post lockout laws

In 2019, the NSW Government announced a range of reforms to the State’s liquor laws which included relaxing the lockout laws introduced in 2014.


What’s happening to Sydney’s lockout laws?

The first stage of the reforms commenced on 14 January 2020, with the repeal of lockout laws in certain parts of Sydney. The first weekend after the repeal of the lockout laws was well-received by the industry and public, and without significant incidents. It is anticipated that venues in the Sydney CBD will experience an increase in patronage in the near future.

The changes came about following the recommendations of the NSW Parliamentary committee into Sydney’s night-time economy. The Joint Select Committee was required to inquire into and report on the measures required to:

  • maintain and enhance community safety;
  • maintain and enhance individual and community health outcomes;
  • ensure existing regulatory arrangements in relation to individuals, businesses and other stakeholders, including Sydney’s lockout laws, remain appropriately balanced; and
  • enhance Sydney’s night-time economy.

What areas will be affected?

The reforms differ between the Sydney CBD Entertainment Precinct (an area extending from The Rocks in the north, to Darlinghurst in the east, Surry Hills in the south and Darling Harbour in the west) and the Kings Cross Entertainment Precinct. The existing laws have been heavily relaxed in the Sydney CBD Entertainment Precinct. Whilst most laws have been retained in the Kings Cross Entertainment Precinct with a review to take place in 2021.

In the Sydney CBD Entertainment Precinct, the reforms include:

  • The removal of the lockout restriction of 1.30 am as the last entry for licensed venues;
  • An adjustment to last drinks times from 3 am to 3.30 am for most venues; and
  • The relaxation of certain drink restrictions, including the removal of restrictions on serving cocktails and shots and drinks in glass after midnight.

In the Kings Cross Entertainment Precinct, the hours of operation of ID scanners have been relaxed. The lockout restrictions and last drinks times will continue to apply, however, there will continue to be a process for certain premises to apply for exemptions from the lockout and liquor sales restrictions.

State-wide reforms include:

  • The extension of takeaway liquor trading hours, from 11 pm to midnight Monday to Saturday, and 10 pm to 11 pm on Sunday;
  • An increase in the patron capacity of small bars, microbreweries and small distilleries from 100 to 120 under relevant licencing arrangements;
  • The commencement of a streamlined process for the conversion of liquor licence types; and

The relaxation of the liquor licence freeze applying to established producer/wholesaler licences.

Other changes across the state

The NSW Government is also considering the following significant changes to liquor laws, subject to further consultation and development:

  • The implementation of a single, integrated incentives and sanctions system to reward well-managed venues and sanction venues that breach liquor laws or have a poor safety record;
  • The alignment of liquor licensing and planning processes to allow a range of businesses to open or change their business models more easily;
  • The adoption of a more sophisticated approach to assessing and managing risks associated with the density of licensed premises and late trading;
  • Enabling family-oriented functions and more diverse small business services in small bars in certain circumstances, including where minors may be present; and
  • The making of other minor and procedural amendments to remove unnecessary red tape, remove regulatory overlap and improve regulatory oversight.

Importantly, the first stage of reforms are not universal and vary depending on a range of factors including the location and safety record of your business, and the development consents that may apply. For example, a development consent may impose more restrictive requirements on your venue in relation to trading times, which must be complied with regardless of the removal of the lockout restriction of 1.30 am.

Need advice?

Do you currently own or operate, or plan to own or operate a licensed venue or premises? The liquor law reforms could provide major opportunities for your business.

Our planning and environment team can provide assistance in relation to all aspects of liquor laws, including specific advice in relation to the liquor law reforms, liquor licencing, and development consents.  Contact us now.


Caitlin Polo, Lawyer