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Newcastle lockout laws eased in 12-month State Government trial

Newcastle’s hotel sector has welcomed the announcement of a new, 12-month State Government trial which will roll back patron lockouts and trading restrictions in the city for the first time in 13 years.

Customer Service and Digital Minister Victor Dominello and NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham MLC announced the trial on Wednesday which will allow patrons to enter venues up until closing time, extend liquor trading until 3.30am as well as the sale of cocktails, neat spirits and shots after 10pm.

AHA Newcastle and Hunter President Rolly de With said the trial, which is expected to begin mid-year could not have come soon enough.

“This could not have come at a better time for our industry which has been struggling with the impact of COVID for a year now,” he said.

“There’s no doubt Newcastle has matured significantly in the last 13 years and we have confidence our patrons will respect this new opportunity to enjoy the same night-time freedoms enjoyed by the rest of NSW.”

Mr de With added that despite the relaxing of the lockout laws, a zero-tolerance policy toward anti-social behaviour would still be in place.

“Our zero tolerance policy on bad behavior will continue,” he said.

“We support the imposing of penalties on any venue or operator who does not adhere to creating a safe and responsible venue after-dark. Current trading hours will not be extended, and it will also be at each venue’s discretion as to whether they choose to keep current entry policies in place.”

The latest announcement follows a six-month Newcastle Night Time Economy trial that saw 21 low-impact bars and restaurants throughout the city have their hours extended to 2am and midnight respectively.

Data sourced from participating venues during the trial indicated that, on average:

  • patron counts increased by more than 28 per cent
  • rostered staff hours increased by more than 35 per cent
  • turnover increased by 68.95 per cent

Preliminary data also showed that no alcohol-related assaults had been recorded in any of the participating venues and only two noise complaints, relating to one venue, had been received since the trial commenced on 1 October 2020.

Blue Kahunas owner, Small Bar Association treasurer and Trial Committee member Prudence Farquhar said the trial had been a huge success with the data speaking for itself.

“The Trial has allowed us to operate on an even playing field with businesses outside of Newcastle,” she said.

“As a small bar owner, initially I was nervous about the Trial, but it’s brought so many positives including an encouraging atmosphere back into our venue and Newcastle nightlife, and I’ve hired more staff.

“The positive data speaks for itself and the outcomes of the trial can only encourage more small bars to open in Newcastle.”