The NSW government will remove late-night lockouts and drinks restrictions at up to Newcastle 24 pubs, nightclubs and bars under a trial starting next month.
An "evaluation plan" for the trial shows long-standing nightclubs Finnegan's Hotel, Argyle House and the King Street Hotel will be been invited to join the trial, along with 17 pubs, the under-construction QT Hotel, two cocktail bars and The Station in Scott Street.
Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello announced in March that venues in the trial would not be subject to lockouts, which stop patrons moving between premises after 1.30am.
"Newcastle Solution" rules which limit the sale of shots and cocktails after 10pm will also be scrapped during the 12-month trial, which starts on July 1.
Liquor trading hours will extend from 3am to 3.30am, provided development consent is in place to allow the venue to stay open longer.
The hotels identified to participate are the Kent, Exchange, Northern Star, Hamilton Station, Sydney Junction, Greenroof, Cambridge, Crown & Anchor, The Lucky, Queens Wharf Brewery, Honeysuckle Hotel, Family, Grand, Clarendon, Customs House, Great Northern and Oriental in Cooks Hill.
The two bars are Bar Petite and The Rogue Scholar.
The list of venues is contained in a document circulated last week to members of a committee which oversaw an earlier trial of relaxed trading restrictions in six bars and 11 restaurants.
An expanded committee comprising politicians, City of Newcastle, police, business, hospitality, music industry, NSW Health and community representatives will evaluate the no-lockouts trial.
Mr Dominello foreshadowed in March that the trial would "set the scene" for the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority to consider a permanent end to lockouts in Newcastle on a case-by-case basis.
He argues that ending lockouts will help invigorate the city's night economy.
Newcastle police commander Wayne Humphrey has slammed the move as "absolute lunacy", while Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell says police support a vibrant and safe entertainment precinct and will monitor the trial closely.
Anti-violence campaigner Tony Brown, doctors groups and Hunter New England Health also oppose lifting restrictions which have been credited with cutting alcohol-related violence in Newcastle.
Inner-city Newcastle and Hamilton are the only parts of the state with lockouts still in place after the government removed them in Sydney's CBD and Kings Cross.
Some of the pubs which could be involved in the Newcastle trial, including the Grand and Oriental, do not have licences to sell alcohol or trade past 11pm or midnight.
The government-owned Station venue in the former Newcastle railway station closes at 10pm under its development consent and liquor licence.
A Liquor & Gaming NSW spokesperson said these venues would not be able to stay open later during the trial but would benefit from relaxed drinks restrictions.
The spokesperson said police had not ruled out any venues during a vetting process.
The evaluation plan says the committee will assess how the trial affects employment, patronage, business turnover, violence, hospital admissions, licence compliance, noise complaints and residential amenity.
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The trial will use venues' patronage, employee and turnover data from September 2020 as a baseline to determine its success, even though some of the nightclubs remained closed in this period and crowd numbers in all venues were heavily restricted by social distancing rules.
Mr Dominello faced criticism in March for hailing the success of the small bar trial before the committee had evaluated its results and for using its outcome to justify an end to lockouts.
Committee chairman Mark Latham, a One Nation Upper House MP, told the Newcastle Herald in July 2020, when the government announced the small bar trial, that there was "no need or intention here to touch any of the existing rules governing the pubs in Newcastle".
"The lockout arrangements for them is really off the agenda. No change would be the attitude of the committee," he said at the time.
Nine months later, he stood with Mr Dominello to announce the no-lockout trial and angrily accused lockout supporters and the Newcastle Herald of a "shameful" and "terrible slur suggesting the people here are drunks and thugs and can't be trusted as they are in the rest of NSW".
Liquor & Gaming NSW and City of Newcastle will run the new trial.
Venues invited to take part in no-lockout trial
- Argyle House
- Cambridge Hotel
- Clarendon Hotel
- Crown & Anchor Hotel
- Customs House Hotel
- Family Hotel
- Grand Hotel
- Great Northern Hotel
- Hamilton Station Hotel
- Honeysuckle Hotel
- Kent Hotel
- King Street Hotel
- Finnegan's Hotel
- Northern Star Hotel
- Oriental Hotel
- QT Hotel East End
- Queens Wharf Brewery
- Sydney Junction Hotel
- The Exchange Hotel
- The Greenroof
- The Lucky Hotel
- Bar Petite
- The Rogue Scholar
- The Station