“This is part of the sector that is often ignored, but it’s where the biggest economic gains are to be made.”
Labor’s spokesman for music and the night-time economy, John Graham, wants to revive the city’s night-life. Credit:Simon McCarthy
Mr Graham said Labor’s focus on the earlier night-time economy would be “more about retail and less about late-night entertainment”.
“We don’t see this just as entertainment, it’s very much about the 17 per cent of all businesses that operate in the night-time economy.”
Sydney misses out on about $16 billion a year because its night-time economy is underdeveloped, according to a recent report from Deloitte Access Economics. The report found the after-dark economy made up 3.8 per cent of Australia’s economy, compared with 6 per cent in the United Kingdom.
In a speech for the Committee for Sydney business group on Tuesday, Mr Graham will also outline plans to “rebalance the night time economy and grow the food and entertainment economy”.
“Sydney after dark overwhelmingly spends its time and money after dark in the grocery store. The right policies can support retail spending, but grow our food and entertainment economy.”
He said Labor will also appoint a night-time economy minister.
Arts, culture and hospitality industry heavyweights have called for a change in the popular narrative that Sydney shuts down after dark. Credit:James Alcock
But Labor has no plans to wind back the inner city’s 1.30am lock-out laws, which continue to be supported by leaders of both major political parties, as well as health and police unions.
Independents and minor parties in the NSW lower house, who stand to be empowered in the event of a tight vote in the state poll, are increasingly of the view the laws should be wound back.
Keep Sydney Open political party spokesman Tyson Koh said both parties’ plans to jump-start the night economy acknowledged the lockout laws had damaged the city’s night-life, but were only “tinkering around the edges”.
“Until they get rid of the lockouts, not only are they stopping businesses doing business, Sydney will be known to residents and visitors as being a lockout city,” Mr Koh said.
The Night Time Industry Association lobby group wants the lockout laws scrapped. But chairman Michael Rodrigues said members also desired a broader investment in the sector from the state government, less regulation and a shift in the narrative that Sydney shuts down after dark.
“Unless we have a minister who takes responsibility for the night-time economy, we won’t see the follow-through that’s required to change the dire situation Sydney has found itself in as a cosmopolitan, global city past 8pm.”
Solotel Group chief executive Justine Baker, who runs venues including Opera Bar, Newtown’s Courthouse Hotel and the Kings Cross Hotel, said “any focus on the night-time economy is helpful”.
“From 6pm to 9pm is our dinner-time, so that’s not really a problem for us, it’s keeping people out after that that is the problem.
“The perception there’s nothing happening at night is very real for a lot of people.”
Sydney Fringe Festival director Kerri Glasscock, who also owns Venue 505 in Surry Hills, said the city’s night-time industry was “beyond the point of a couple of quick fixes”.
“Sydney is the best city. We’ve got everything going for us to have the best nightlife, we just need to unlock it. People want things to do, they want a vibrant nightlife. It’s not an arts issue, or an entertainment issue, it’s an important city issue.”
Megan Gorrey is the Urban Affairs reporter at the Sydney Morning Herald.
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