THE NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority will review the nearly decade-old lockout laws over 15 Newcastle hotels and bars that have come to be known across Australia as the “Newcastle solution”.
The authority announced the review on Tuesday after a relaxation of Sydney lockout laws in December 2016, after only two years in operation, prompted calls from Newcastle venues for a review and relaxation of closure times that were first set in 2008.
Authority chair Philip Crawford said the review, by barrister Jonathan Horton, QC, will take written submissions from the public, police, businesses and other groups until December 13, and will look at current 1am and 1.30am lockouts and 3am and 3.30am closing times.
It will also consider existing drinks restrictions after 10pm, including bans on shots and doubles and a limit of four drinks per customer.
Mr Horton assisted with the 2016 review of Sydney’s lockout laws. He will meet with community representatives, Newcastle City Council, Hunter New England Health, liquor accords, venues and police as part of the review.
The conditions have been in place for nine years and Newcastle’s CBD has changed considerably in this time.Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority chief Philip Crawford
Mr Crawford said the review followed a request by the Australian Hotels Association, on behalf of the 15 affected Newcastle venues, to consider revoking or changing some of the conditions.
“This is timely considering the conditions have been in place for nine years and Newcastle’s CBD has changed considerably in this time,” Mr Crawford said.
The review would be “guided by evidence and community feedback”, he said.
The “Newcastle solution” in 2008 followed years of controversy over alcohol-related violence and disturbances in the central business district. In the period just before they were imposed there were an average 99 late-night assaults per quarter. The figure was halved by 2015.
The then Liquor Administration Board imposed lockout, closing and drinks conditions over Newcastle venues the Cambridge Hotel, Civic Hotel, Clarendon Hotel, Crown & Anchor Hotel, Customs House, Ducks Nuts, Fanny’s of Newcastle, Hotel CBD, King St Hotel, Lucky Country Hotel, MJ Finnegans, Queens Wharf Brewery, Grand Hotel, Great Northern Hotel and The Dockyard.
After Sydney’s lockout laws were relaxed in December, 2016 following two years of campaigning by venues, Hunter branch president of the Australian Hotels Association, Rolly de With, said it was time Newcastle’s conditions were reviewed, and venues would call for parity with Sydney’s conditions.
Lockout activist Tony Brown, who spearheaded the campaign for the lockout laws, remained against any changes to what he called “an international success story”.
In December, 2016 University of Newcastle School of Medicine and Public Health Professor Kypros Kypri said he was not opposed to a review, saying a case could be made for restricting last drinks to 2am and eliminating the lockout.
Controlling the amount of alcohol was the key, he said.