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Lockout laws might be relaxed

A review of Sydney’s lockout laws has raised the possibility of a relaxation of restrictions on the sale of takeaway alcohol and allowing later drinks services in clubs.

Former High Court judge Ian Callinan QC has found lockout laws can be relaxed – by 30 minutes.

His review found that the laws, introduced in 2014, had made Sydney’s King’s Cross and CBD safer. Justice Callinan found that Kings Cross and Sydney’s CBD were “grossly overcrowded, violent, noisy and in places dirty” before the laws came into place. They were subsequently transformed into “much safer, quieter and cleaner areas”.

However, he found the laws had reduced the job opportunities for shift workers and had undermined the city’s vibrancy.

After considering more than 1800 submissions, the review suggested pushing out the lockout time by half an hour. That would see the 1.30am lockout and 3am last drinks pushed back in venues with live music to a 2am lockout and 3.30am last drinks.

Operating hours for takeaway sales of alcohol would be extended to 11pm from 10pm, and to midnight for ­alcohol home delivery services.

The findings will now be considered by Deputy Premier and Justice minister Troy Grant, adding to the political pressure on Premier Mike Baird who has been under fire on all fronts over the laws. It also coincides with the backlash against the government in the local government elections last weekend.

“There is significant community and stakeholder interest in the report and we are releasing it immediately to give everyone a chance to consider its findings and recommendations,” Mr Grant said.

The hotel industry and activists like City of Sydney councillor Christine Forster said welcomed the recommendations but said they didn’t go far enough. They want to see the blanket 1.30am lockout removed.

But the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons said relaxing the laws carries too big a risk.

"We know that each hour in trade results in significant increase in domestic violence statewide," Dr John Crozier, a RACS councillor told Fairfax media. "That, in the view of the College of Surgeons, is not a justified risk."

by Leon Gettler, September 14th 2016