The NSW government is taking a calculated risk in scrapping lockouts in Newcastle pubs and clubs as part of a 12-month trial of relaxed alcohol trading restrictions.
The move has been strongly opposed by medical professionals, the government's own Hunter New England Health Service and, not least, the city's police commander.
The publication in the Newcastle Herald this week of the 24 venues Liquor & Gaming NSW will invite to participate in the trial, including some which have appeared on and off on the list of the state's most violent, has not calmed their nerves.
Nevertheless, both sides of politics are embracing the end of 1am curfews and weaker drink restrictions in a city once infamous for its late-night brawling.
The Sydney media cheered on the state government and Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello when they removed lockouts in Sydney's CBD last year and in Kings Cross this year.
Crime statistics released on Thursday show drunken late-night violence has halved in Sydney's CBD since lockouts ended, but COVID lockdowns and crowd restrictions have rendered the numbers meaningless.
Opponents of lockouts say removing them will bring life back to city streets and boost the economy.
They argue our drinking culture has changed and venues are more responsible these days.
But some elements of the Newcastle community, including the tide of older residents who have moved into inner-city flats in recent years, remain unconvinced.
They have objected to the expansion of the King Street Hotel, the city's largest nightclub, this year, as have police and the health service.
Alcohol researchers point out that increasing alcohol sales never has a good impact on a community, especially for the vulnerable people on the wrong end of violence.
For the politicians driving the change, it will take only one serious injury or death during the no-lockout trial for fingers to be pointed.
As the death of 18-year-old Thomas Kelly in Kings Cross in 2012 demonstrated, tragedy is only one punch away. And it takes only one punch to transform the narrative around late-night trade.
If the city can end lockouts with minimal effect on public safety and amenity, everyone's a winner.
The community is now relying on the government, police, LGNSW, the council and the hotel industry to make sure the trial is run transparently and that its outcomes are not a fait accompli.