This Saturday night more than 30,000 fans will descend upon McDonald Jones Stadium to watch the Newcastle Jets take on Melbourne Victory in the 2018 A-League grand final.
Many of these A-League fans will be local. Many will be from further afield, Melbourne in particular. Our city will be on display, our hospitality venues and night-time economy the focus of after-match celebrations.
In Newcastle, tourism is about more than waterfront activities and vineyards. It is about more than beaches, bays, walking trails and museums. It is also about showcasing major events and the provision of a vibrant and diverse night-time economy.
We are fortunate to live in a city that is on the precipice of becoming an international drawcard, especially when it comes to hosting high-profile sporting events.
The inaugural Supercars 500 event, which recently drew more than 100,000 people to the city, allowed us for the first time, to stand back and take in what Newcastle as a city is really capable of.
In general terms, our tourism industry contributes $949.5 million in expenditure into the local economy.
By 2027, more than six million domestic visits are expected, totaling more than $1.8 billion in expenditure, and that is being modest. With the imminent opening of Newcastle’s Cruise Terminal, and the exponential growth of Newcastle Airport, which expects a future annual visitation of up to 10 million passengers in decades to come, we need to ensure our city is ready not just to cope with, but to exceed, the expectations of a thriving tourism industry.
Tourism and infrastructure development is booming. The visitor economy is thriving, and we are beginning to create and implement Smart City strategies. What is not so smart is the retention of restrictive hospitality industry laws which hamper the enjoyment of both locals and visitors.
As licensing restrictions placed upon Sydney begin to ease, and visitors from other cities around the country, and the world, come to Newcastle, they will no doubt be confused and frustrated when they are unexpectedly refused the service of a cocktail at 10.01pm.
They will be baffled even further as they scratch their heads trying to figure out which venues have 1am lockouts and which encourage entry until 1.30am. Discontent and uncertainty is sure to ensue.
A reasonable solution to this problem would be the opportunity for venues to be afforded the freedom of exemptions to current licensing restrictions in the instance of a major event or other reasonable circumstance.
Even more reasonable would be the implementation of consistent service of cocktails and other drinks until midnight. This is not an exceptionally late hour.
As Novocastrians, we are only now starting to see the real potential of Newcastle to find its place on a global stage.
In the past 10 years Newcastle has come so far. What we need to do now, is to start building upon these foundations a framework that is in-line with becoming a vibrant and progressive city.
We need to ensure our city is a place to proud of, a destination that people will want to come back to time and time again, and the only way to do that is by exceeding the expectations of our visitors.
Current overly restrictive laws impede that. Surely we as Novocastrians, and our visitors, are mature enough to be able to order the drink of our choice after 10pm.