Over a dozen pubs and clubs in Newcastle and Hamilton have had tough operating restrictions lifted following a decision to do away with the city’s lockout laws.
Eight venues in the CBD including Finnegans, King Street Hotel and the Argyle House have had their bids to allow later entry for patrons and serve shots and bombs approved by the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA).
In Hamilton, licensing conditions have been rolled back for seven other premises.
The newly approved venues were involved in a trial of eased restrictions which ran in 2021 and 2022 which was used to justify dropping the regime and allow businesses to apply for their trading conditions to be relaxed.
It has prompted a mixed response with some hailing the added boost to Newcastle’s night-time economy, while others hold concerns about a potential increase in alcohol-fueled violence.
Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp welcomed the approvals.
“I am pleased to see venues with a good compliance history that promote patron safety are being rewarded with the eased conditions from the trial applied to their licenses. This will further help grow the night-time economy in Newcastle.”
Prominent community advocate Dr Tony Brown, however, viewed the decision as the government giving the ‘greenlight’ to drunken violence and crime on local streets.
“ILGA has placed pub profits ahead of the public, patrons, police and other emergency workers’ safety. It has ignored the views of local senior police, health officials and many inner-city families,” Dr Brown said.
The ILGA’s report on the trial showed the number of assaults and affrays at participating venues had risen 65% but found that figure could mostly be attributed to a handful of larger premises.
According to the NSW Government all proposals submitted to ILGA were considered on a case-by-case basis, with a strong focus on compliance, safety and avoiding any unacceptable risks to the community.
Some of the venues applied for relaxed conditions to be removed from their licences permanently but were not fully approved.