September 14, 2020
Date: 14 September 2020
Author: Megan Gorrey
Source: Sydney Morning Herald
The NSW government is being urged to use the same powers it used to help Sydney’s retail and construction industries to revive the hospitality sector that is under financial strain due to the coronavirus.
The Berejiklian government on Monday announced its 24-hour Economy Strategy, the most recent measure to help Sydney’s hospitality and entertainment sectors after six years of lockdown laws crippled inner city venues.
“Sydneysiders deserve a global city that’s thriving 24 hours a day, and the world wants a 24-hour Sydney,” Jobs and Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres said.
The long-term strategy supports expanding late-night transport options, later trading hours for some retailers and major cultural institutions, simpler liquor licensing and a review of live music and noise regulations.
A co-ordinator-general will work with state government ministers, local councils and night-time industry players to implement the strategy and champion a “vibrant, diverse, inclusive and safe” after-dark economy for Sydney.
The government will help local councils throughout the city to create 24-hour entertainment precincts in their communities, and a “neon grid” will map existing and emerging night-time hubs for authorities and consumers.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said: “This strategy aims to drive investment, create jobs and attract more businesses to the CBD and surrounding suburbs, laying the groundwork for our state’s economic recovery so we can keep more businesses in business and people in jobs.”
Sydney’s lockout laws for venues in the CBD and Kings Cross were lifted in February. The laws caused alcohol-related assaults in those areas to drop, but the cost to the city’s nightlife triggered loud calls for a policy rethink.
Labor’s night-time economy spokesman John Graham worried the new strategy was largely designed to salve the impact of the lockout laws without taking into account the broader challenges brought on by the pandemic.
“My fear is this is an old set of answers to an old set of problems. The impact of the lockdown on night-time businesses and jobs has now swamped the previous impacts of the lockouts. It’s been devastating.”
Mr Graham urged Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes to use his ministerial powers to make changes that would make it easier for venues to implement outdoor dining and performances, and later trading hours, immediately.
“These are the same powers he used to keep truckies in work delivering to supermarkets, or tradies in work in construction. Now they should be used for hospitality workers and musicians,” Mr Graham said.
Sydney’s business groups are also urging councils to close streets to traffic and embrace more rooftop venues in a bid to encourage outdoor dining as people avoid indoor venues.
Cities including Melbourne, London and New York have turned to outdoor dining to help bars and restaurants continue to operate during the pandemic.
Night Time Industries Association spokesman Mike Rodrigues said the state government and City of Sydney council would need a separate plan to help businesses in the city recover as coronavirus restrictions eased.
“What this doesn’t do is solve the challenges in the CBD. This is a plan for future development of the city’s nightlife across greater Sydney.
“A lot of the focus had been on the CBD areas but, due to COVID, people have decentralised from these areas. There are elements of this strategy that put us ahead of where we would have been [had it not been for] COVID.”
“These businesses are drowning in the face of an economic tidal wave. There is no fiscal lifeboat today from the government,” Mr Graham said.