Why we need to keep sensible alcohol restrictions in place




An excellent article in the Guardian yesterday which undermines the shrill assertions of the alcohol, hotel and club industries that the alcohol restrictions in inner Sydney introduced by the 2014 NSW Liquor Amendment Act has “killed off” Sydney’s night life.

The two-key elements of the 2014 NSW Liquor Amendment Act are that clubs and pubs within the defined zone cannot serve alcohol after 3am and cannot let in new patrons after 1.30am. Noting that following the 2016 Callinan Review 20 “live music venues” have had their limits relaxed allowing them to keep their doors open until 2am (instead of 1.30am) and serve alcohol until 3.30am (instead of 3am.)

The research referenced in this article was commissioned by the City of Sydney which opposes the alcohol restrictions.

In summary

  • the number of venues grew by 1.8% to 4,872 in 2017,
  • overall sales rose by 6.3% - the city’s night-time economy is now worth $4.05bn.
  • in the “drink sub-sector” there was an increase of 4.9% in new establishments, an increase in employment of 8.7%) and turnover has increased by 6.5% all “well above the NSW and national averages”
  • the number of drink venues had declined by two between 2014 and 2017 (from 576 to 574).
  • but there has been a “boom in small bars within the city”.


Time and time again the campaign run by the alcohol, hotel and club industries and the likes of “keep Sydney Open” is undermined by hard evidence and exposed for what it is – a campaign driven by greed and profit.

The same organisations funding the campaign to wind back the sensible alcohol restrictions are the same organisations that support massive cuts to the penalty rates for hospitality workers, for example the Australian Hotels Associations and ClubsNSW.

The evidence in support of keeping the current laws is overwhelming.

This articles should be read in conjunction with research published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) in February this year, which showed the alcohol restrictions have reduced the number of violent alcohol-related injuries with St Vincent’s Hospital seeing a 10% reduction in the incidence of alcohol-related orbital (eye socket) fractures between 2014-2016. This saved nearly half a million dollars in hospital, ambulance and other medical costs.

In 2016, some of the same authors found a 25% reduction in major alcohol-related injuries (such as the so-called “one punch” injuries) in the 12 months after the laws were introduced.

This research adds to compelling evidence that demonstrates restricting access to alcohol by closing drinking venues early reduces serious assaults and injuries.

A Norwegian study showed the effect in both directions when towns changed opening hours of pubs and clubs after 1am. Alcohol-related assaults increased by almost 20% per hour with increased opening hours, and vice versa with early last drinks.

The biggest and most comprehensive study internationally on alcohol-related presentations to EDs, which include intoxication and other emergencies besides injuries, found almost one in ten of all attendances were alcohol-related. That equates to half a million patients every year presenting to Australian EDs with alcohol-related harm.

The Last Drinks Campaign (http://lastdrinks.org.au/) is a coalition of the unions representing doctors, nurses, paramedics and police officers. ASMOF, the Health Services Union, the NSW Police Association, and the New South Wales Nurses and Midwives’ Association believe that it is unacceptable and reprehensible that emergency service workers are exposed to significant WH&S risks because of alcohol fuelled violence. We are united in our support of the 2014 reforms to the NSW Liquor Act which have substantially reduced the incidence of assault in Kings Cross and the Sydney CBD.

You can read todays media release from the Last Drinks Coalition with quotes from ASMOF NSW President, and Last Drinks spokesperson, Dr Tony Sara.