Since the introduction of Sydney’s lockout laws in February 2014, the resistance to Barry O’Farrell’s venue-crushing, live-music-destroying legislation has largely come from one place.
Keep Sydney Open has remained the focal point for all criticism lobbed against the restrictive practices; the laws that have designated a ‘safe zone’ in the city and prevented venues from admitting new patrons after 1:30am, as well as required them to call last drinks by 3am.
And yet, the lack of alternative forms of resistance has some feeling concerned. Keep Sydney Open, though an admirable institution in terms of organisational prowess and populist appeal, isn’t necessarily looking to compromise on the laws – its strategy has been to launch devastating campaigns against all aspects of the legislation, thereby pushing the government up against a wall and leaving politicians without any way to save face.
That’s where City Safe comes in. An initiative spearheaded by the AusComply mobile security compliance company, this relatively new anti-lockout laws proposal takes what some have described as a more even-handed approach to O’Farrell’s legislation. City Safe has been designed to allow designated ‘safe venues’ – pubs and bars that can empirically prove proper measures have been put in place to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence – to apply for an easing of the lockout laws. This way, the onus of safety is on venues, and not on a sweeping, city-wide legislation.
“Significant criticism has been directed at the lockouts due to the blanket standard approach the current system engenders,” explains Jason Thomas, one of the key players in the City Safe proposal. “The City Safe concept sees compliant, safe venues rewarded with an exemption to the lockout times, thus returning to their standard licensed trading hours. The simplicity of the system has a far greater chance of success as it rewards compliant safe venues, encouraging them to remain compliant and safe in order to maintain their lockout exemption.
“The KSO program has called for the lockouts to be repealed or removed, giving the government no alternative options [and] leaving it to government to come up with an alternate solution,” Thomas adds.
Thomas has been involved with the City Safe project since its very inception, and remains relentlessly dedicated to the burgeoning organisation. “City Safe was initially conceived by AusComply in September 2016 after several of [AusComply’s] existing clients had achieved success in using analytics and the ability to review, analyse and recall their information from our system to successfully defend themselves [against] regulators.
“Although the City Safe concept was sound, it was important to ensure industry support for the framework was achieved before progressing. As a result, a plan was developed in consultation with select industry associates. A confidential meeting named ‘Phoenix Project’ was then held at a Sydney location with around 20 influential Sydney hoteliers and group owners. The City Safe concept and framework was then outlined to attendees followed by significant group discussion.”
That level of inclusivity has also impressed fans of the City Safe proposal, as they believe a clear line of communication between protesters and venue owners is crucial. That’s not even to mention the freshness of the City Safe perspective, one that stresses positivity and real action.
“City Safe works within the current legislation, intent and framework,” Thomas says. “It’s also based on a reward and positive encouragement concept that treats each venue on its merits, rather than a punitive, oppressive, blanket confronting approach.”
Moving forward, AusComply now needs to gather enough signatures on a petition to bring debate to the State Parliament, something it is getting closer to achieving every day.
“Response from the general public so far has been outstanding,” Thomas says. “We’ve even experienced supporters of the lockouts change their minds and sign our petition once the safety and compliance outcomes of the program are explained.”
Find out more about City Safe at its official website.