Tuesday, March 25, 2014

This is a landmark in the War against Kings Cross

OK I was wrong. I had predicted that 1.30 lockouts and 3am closing would result in more violence as the Kings Cross crowds battled it out over taxis. But after three weeks of the new regime it seems the crowds have simply stopped coming. It's a landmark in the eternal War against Kings Cross.
Bayswater Road last Saturday night, showing one of several
trailer-mounted signs flashing the new regime.
I took these photos on Saturday night, when the trial closure of Bayswater Road to through traffic was being trialled. The signage flagged a 9pm closure but at 9.30 they didn't seem to be in place and the crowds and traffic were so sparse there didn't seem to be much point.
It looks as if the authorities, too, have been caught offguard at people's desertion of Sydney's late-night entertainment precinct.
It makes sense though - when I pointed out the lack of people at 9.30, a friend said "people will come later". But if there is no "later", why would they come?
People have to eat somewhere, then they have to get into the city, or they go somewhere local for some cheaper drinks before heading in. The crowds used to really hit after midnight. But what's the point of that if you are going to be locked out of all venues at 1.30? It's not worth the trip in from the 'burbs. In today's mobile phone-fuelled, flexible social landscape, people from all over the city move about, change venues and meet their friends anywhere. The 1.30 lockout freezes all that.
These ill-conceived rules were made by old farts who still think in terms of their distant youth, before mobile phones (and before drugs that help people party all night were common currency - you know, the ones that are "controlled" by prohibition). I have heard more than one old killjoy say things like "Why can't these people just go home by midnight".
The baby has truly thrown out with the bathwater and when the data are in, I now predict a sorry tale of  lost jobs, business failure and - if the data are even collected - the displacement of drunken violence to other areas and private homes.
Welcome to the nanny state.

PS I'm told 25 staff have been sacked from the Kings Cross Hotel alone after the lockouts reduced their average 1am crowd from 900 to 200.

Maybe the lockouts have an upside - The Vegas Hotel seems to be getting creative
about pulling customers, with bloke and girly shows. But these sexy boys were finding
it hard to pull girls from nearly non-existent crowds.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lockouts and new anti-alcohol laws simply deny the facts

There was a petition on the bar of my local against the NSW government's recent early lockout laws. I signed it. While I have been railing for years against this moral panic-driven nonsense, this piece by Bernard Keane on Crickey unpicks the hypocrisy of the laws and the media campaign behind it, particularly the shameful behaviour of the formerly trustworthy Sydney Morning Herald.

The piece is less than complimentary about media tart Dr Gordian Fulde from St Vincents Hospital, a doctrinaire prohibitionist who in my view should stick to his doctoring and keep his doctrines out of public commentary.

Writes Keane:
Fulde is insistent that violence is getting worse in Sydney and that alcohol is to blame. It is a claim that the Herald was happy to repeat. It is also a claim that is blatantly false... Last year’s Review of the Liquor Act 2007and Gaming and Liquor Administration Act 2007 showed that violent incidents on licensed premises had fallen 28% from 2007, and alcohol-related assaults had fallen 35% between 2008 and 2012. Assaults across NSW had also fallen significantly, as had hospital presentations for acute alcohol-related problems.
And for those who believe that review was a Big Grog conspiracy, you can go to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research site and look at the data yourself.
Here are the relevant data:

Keane again hits the nail on the head, ascribing the cheap populist campaign run by Sydney's newspapers to their plummetting circulation:
This takes us to the most relevant statistics about this whole sordid affair. The Sydney Morning Herald’s circulation is in freefall — it lost more than 15% of its circulation in the year to September. And in 2013, it fell 7 points in its readers’ trust, according to Essential Research’s trust in media survey, tumbling to 64%. The Telegraph is Australia’s least-trusted metro title — trusted by only 41% of its readers — and its circulation fell by nearly as much as the Herald’s in the year to September. They are two dying newspapers, each desperate to outdo the other.
The lockout laws so-far seem to be killing the Cross, which might please a few local NIMBYs but will cause hardship to all the hospitality workers and entertainers now thrown out of work.