Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes has flagged at least doubling a trial of relaxed late-night licensing conditions in Newcastle's inner-city from six months to 12 months.
Newcastle restaurant trading hours will be extended to midnight and small bars will be allowed to trade until 2am after Newcastle councillors voted on Tuesday night to support a trial of new liquor trading laws.
Twenty-seven bars and restaurants will be involved in the trial as part of efforts to stimulate the city's nightlife.
The venues include bars such as Grain Store, Coal & Cedar, Koutetsu, MoneyPenny, Basement on Market and Big Poppys and restaurants such as Scratchleys, The Edwards, Three Bears Kitchen and Signal Box.
The trial, which is being overseen by a government-appointed committee, is planned to run from October to April, but Cr Nelmes told the council meeting that she would like to see it extended at least six more months to allow more meaningful data collection during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I would be quite happy to make the request that we send to [the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment] actually includes at minimum a 12-month timeframe," she said.
A report to councillors outlined how the trial would measure the venues' increased turnover, its impact on alcohol-related assault statistics and how many more people were attracted to the inner-city.
"These changes to the night-time economy are all part of a revitalised Newcastle precinct," Scratchleys on the Wharf owner Neil Slater said in a statement issued by City of Newcastle after Tuesday's meeting.
"The trial will allow for a more sophisticated Newcastle that has matured and is ready to take our place as one of the great cities of Australia.
"We want to offer visitors and locals alike a truly wonderful city by day or night."
Deputy lord mayor Cr Declan Clausen moved a resolution to support an inner-city residents' representative, Dr Anthony Cook, being appointed to the trial committee.
City of Newcastle will also write to the Minister for Customer Service, Victor Dominello, to request the reinstatement of Newcastle-based liquor licensing compliance officers to help oversee the proposed licensing changes and gather data throughout the trial.
The Newcastle Committee for Night Time Jobs and Investment, led by One Nation MP Mark Latham, welcomed the council's endorsement of the trial via amendments to the city's Local Environmental Plan.
"It's great to see that these venues share our vision for a nightlife that Newcastle deserves," Mr Latham said.
"These venues have all been identified as low-risk and have the potential to contribute to a vibrant and safe night-time economy in Newcastle."
Committee member and Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp thanked stakeholders for their contributions.
"I'm happy to see venues get on board for the trial, which will help keep the doors of small businesses open and keep people in jobs, particularly going into their busiest time of year under COVID restrictions," he said.
The police union, doctors, nurses, paramedics and some residents have publicly opposed any changes to the late-night trading restrictions which have been credited with reducing alcohol violence in the inner-city since they were introduced in 2008.
Anti-violence campaigner Tony Brown feared the trial would lead to a weakening of conditions on pubs and clubs.
"Newcastle council and the Minister for Liquor and Gambling, Mr Dominello, will come under intense pressure from the Australian Hotels Association to effectively dismantle the existing Newcastle conditions for the bigger and later-trading pubs and clubs," he said.
"Perhaps this is part of their bigger strategy."
The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority recently acknowledged Newcastle CBD remained a hotspot for alcohol crime and violence, but it has said publicly it supports the trial.
"Newcastle council and the minister are only exacerbating this problem," Mr Brown said.
"Only lip service is being afforded the prioritisation of safety over pub profits and political patronage."
VENUES PARTICIPATING IN THE TRIAL
Basement on Market
Coal & Cedar
Harbour Bar & Grill
Scratchleys on the Wharf
The Beehive Honeysuckle
Three Bears Kitchen
Valerie's Pizza Parlour
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