SMH: Smoke and mirrors to be taken out of NSW’s antiquated liquor laws

(13 NOV) Sydney venues will be allowed to hang a mirror ball above their bars and book bands no matter their genre or instruments without attracting licensing scrutiny under sweeping changes to the state’s intricate and sometimes peculiar liquor laws.

The more than 600 amendments to the laws are expected to pass the NSW Legislative Assembly next week, having moved through the upper house on Thursday.

Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said the reforms would do away with the antiquated restrictions imposed on hospitality venues.

“There were so many cobwebs in relation to this part of the economy that it was like a haunted house. What this bill does is get rid of a lot of them so live music can get back to where it should be,” he said.

“These were the type of restrictions that were having blanket bans on live music, just because it was live music, there was no nuance. There were some silly things in there about mirror balls, things parked in the last century.”

The changes include provisions that make it clear mirror balls, live music and dancing are legal in bars, Labor’s spokesman for the night-time economy John Graham said.

“Mirror balls have been used by regulators as a signal as to whether a venue is risky, the concern has been it might lead to dancing. We don’t accept that – it is not the role of the government to tell people how to decorate their venues,” he said.

A number of restrictions imposed on venues, including bans on live music, the number of musicians that can take the stage, the type of instruments they play and the direction bands have to face will all cease.

More freedom for outdoor dining and performances during the pandemic will also be implemented, as well as an extra half hour of trade for music venues in the City of Sydney and new special entertainment zones.

Goros Bar in Surry Hills is among the venues that risked being classified as a nightclub if it hangs up a mirror ball. Justine Baker, the chief executive of Solotel, which owns Goros, said the bill passing reforms was great news.

“We are excited to be able to have an unrestricted dance floor post-covid,” Ms Baker said.

Restrictions venues have faced in recent years include a Tamworth hotel having to arrange amplification equipment to direct sound in a southern direction, while a bar in Nowra was warned against “disco type entertainment” with only a guitarist and keyboard player permitted to play soft rock.

Chief executive of music rights association APRA AMCOS Dean Ormston said the reforms marked an end of the years-long strangulation of live music.

“All these changes will help support small businesses and drive an economic recovery … and importantly, getting musicians back to work,” he said.

Mr Dominello said the Liquor Amendment (24-hour Economy) Bill was the product of bipartisan work and would “turn the lights back on” in Sydney.

Categories: ALL POSTS