The Keep Sydney Open Rally on Sunday, February 21st, brought thousands of people together to protest against the restrictive nightlife laws imposed on Sydney in 2014. Along with youth, hospitality workers, struggling musicians, and other involved parties, many prominent Australian bands supported or attended the rally.
The Sydney nightlife is most well publicised for violence, statistics on alcohol and illicit drug consumption, and, in reality television shows like RPA (Royal Prince Alfred) a combination of the two. What is not highlighted on the national news is the importance of this nightlife to up-and-coming musicians, most of whom must pay their dues by playing the 2-4am time-slot to gain recognition and, hopefully, eventual fame. The lockout laws imposed by the NSW government in 2014 has changed the culture of nightlife in Sydney, forcing venues to close their doors at 1:30am, and serve last drinks by 3am.
These laws have had both positive and negative impacts. According to Last Drinks, and organisation of nurses, doctors, paramedics, and police officers, there has been a 32% reduction in alcohol fueled assaults in King’s Cross, and zero deaths at St Vincent’s Hospital since the lockout laws were enforced. In a poll conducted over the weekend, more than two-thirds of Sydney residents support restrictions on Sydney nightlife.
Conversely, data collected by APRA-AMCOS – the body that gathers and distributes royalties to musicians – there has been a 40% drop in live music revenue, live music spending has dropped 15%, and in July 2015, more than 40 businesses in Kings Cross alone had closed down. In the same poll that had two thirds of people supporting restrictions, more than 80% supported alternative measures such as harsher penalties, increased police presence, and increased transport options.
Numerous bands became invloved in the issue, including DJ Nina Las Vegas, Flume, Art Vs. Science, Flight Facilities, Alison Wonderland, The Preatures, and Peking Duk, the latter of which posted on Facebook prior to the rally encouraging people to attend:
Sydney nightlife was a brewing pot for all people of all ages to expand creatively and spread their wings together. Bartenders, travellers, music lovers, music makers, whiskey connoisseurs, larrikins, entrepreneurs, dancers and lovers would be united week by week, only to fill this city with a warming sound, colour and vibrance that one could find among cities such as Berlin and New York. The opportunities and inspiration Sydney would offer us all as individuals back then was unlike anything. Tens of thousands created careers out of our stunning nightlife, then it was all thrown away.
Between 5000-15000 people attended the rally, which had live performances from bands including Art Vs Science and Royal Headache, and speeches by Nina Las Vegas, Preatures frontwoman Isabella Manfredi, and the Hoodoo Gurus’ Dave Faulkner.
On social media, Flume posted an open letter to Mike Baird, explaining the reasoning behind the protest.
“It’s not just limited to music careers. There’s a complex tapestry of people who’s [sic] livelihoods are impacted on the closing of late night venues. The reduction in people out in the city also means other small businesses (restaurants, news agencies, taxis and so many more) are suffering.”
The letter was signed by other NSW bands on the Future Classic Label, including Flight Facilities, Hayden James and Seekae.
It will be interesting to see if Mike Baird and the state government respond the rally, given it attracted such large numbers.
What do you think of the laws, are you siding with the artists?