Here’s What Happened (And What Didn’t) On Sydney’s First Lockout-Less Night

Sydney punters have been fighting for the right to party since 2014. Last year, after countless petitions, protests, and even one short-lived political movement, they finally notched a win.

The NSW Government’s decision to wind back Sydney’s lockout laws, which kept folks from entering venues past 1.30am and forced bars to sling their last drinks at 3am in an attempt to curb violence, suggested a renaissance for the city’s struggling night-life culture.

You lot were pumped. So were we. We hit Oxford Street on Tuesday, ready to experience the first night of a newly-open Sydney. Here’s what we found:

So. After all that energy and effort, why the fuck was it so quiet?

The first answer is perhaps the most obvious. Tuesday night simply isn’t prime raging time, even for a city forced to bed by successive Liberal Party governments. For all the energy expended fighting the legislation, not much was left over for a school night.

The second reason is more complex – and it’s why the government actually chose to wind back the laws.

The NSW Treasury reports late-night foot traffic dropped by 33% in the CBD after the laws came into place, and a further 83% of licensed businesses in the region reported drops in patronage after midnight.

That kicked off a vicious cycle. No patrons means no business. No business means, well, no business. Simply put, there are fewer places to party than a decade ago; while mainstays like Oxford Arts Factory are gearing up for a big Friday night, many classic clubs, bars, and restaurants didn’t make it. Why head into town for venues which no longer exist?

Finally, there’s the inexorable march of time. The young guns who propelled Sydney’s late-night culture circa 2014 have gotten older, picking up daytime responsibilities in the process. It seems the lockout laws pushed a mini-generation out of their loosest years.

But, like locking eyes across the dancefloor at 2.49am, there’s still a glimpse of hope. “It’s over for us but that’s okay,” one punter told us on Tuesday. “There’s a new generation.”

Sydney is dead. Long live Sydney. Catch you this weekend.