Newcastle's late-night lockouts could soon be a thing of the past if the political forces marshalling against them have their way.
Labor's shadow minister for the night-time economy, John Graham, a former Novocastrian who sat on the joint parliamentary committee that led to the end of lockout laws in Sydney's CBD a year ago, said on Friday that it was the "right time to kick off" a review of Newcastle's 1.30am curfew.
Both sides of politics have advocated for weaker licensing restrictions to boost the hospitality industry.
City of Newcastle chief executive Jeremy Bath, a former press secretary for Liberal senator John Tierney and former media manager at Clubs NSW, said in an opinion piece in the Newcastle Herald two weeks ago that it would be "sensible" for the government to trial "incremental removal" of the city's lockouts in 2021.
Labor lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes and Newcastle Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp have also pushed for a watering down of the so-called Newcastle Solution.
Mr Crakanthorp said on Friday that it was "time for the government to get on with the review" of Newcastle's lockouts.
The parliamentary committee recommended the Newcastle lockouts be reviewed a year after Sydney's lockouts ended, a period which has now expired.
Meanwhile, the council and government have launched a six-month trial of weakened licensing conditions in small bars and restaurants in inner Newcastle.
Mr Crakanthorp said the trial had been a "great boost to the city's night life" and police had reported "minimal issues" since it began.
The head of the trial committee, One Nation MP Mark Latham, said last year that the trial was "clearly not" about ending the city's 1.30am lockouts, but the drums are beating for a review.
The Department of Customer Service, asked if a review was imminent, responded with a statement from an Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority spokesperson which said the results of the small bar trial "can be used to support the authority's decision making in respect of applications made for new and existing venues in Newcastle".
Unlike in Sydney, Newcastle's lockouts are not enshrined in the Liquor Act but reflect a series of ILGA licensing decisions since 2008 designed to curb late-night violence.
ILGA has fielded a handful of applications from inner-city pubs and nightclubs in the past year seeking permission to serve shots and cocktails beyond the current limit of 10pm.
An official 2018 review of the Newcastle lockouts by Dr Jonathan Horton QC recommended they stay in place.
Mr Graham said the government had several avenues available to loosen the restrictions but called for thorough consultation with the community.
"There were certainly some discussions as we were hitting the end of last year to say it was anticipated [to start a review]," he said.
He acknowledged police and medical professionals vehemently opposed moves to weaken licensing rules and said their voices should be heard in any review.
Mr Graham said social-distancing rules had made it impossible to gauge the success of the Sydney changes.
"I don't think there's an evidence base to work off in the way we were hoping, but I think there's also an increased focus on hospitality jobs as a result of COVID."
He did not know if removing lockouts would increase employment in Newcastle.
"In Sydney, absolutely, because it was having an international impact on Sydney's reputation. It was deterring tourism.
"I'm not sure in Newcastle. That's one of the things you'd want to talk to people about."
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