There’s perhaps nobody in Sydney who has been affected by the city’s lockout laws as much as nightclub owner and self-styled “King of the Cross” John Ibrahim.
When the NSW Government introduced the severe crackdown on the city’s night-life in February 2014, the Eastern Suburbs personality was involved in 17 venues. Since then, he has seen the normally bustling night-life precinct of Kings Cross become almost unrecognisable.
A year ago Mr Ibrahim boldly declared the “Cross is officially dead” as a result of the divisive laws that were brought in to curb alcohol-fuelled violence in Sydney’s CBD, but this week he has revealed the real reason he thinks the Government brought them in.
In an interview with local Eastern Suburbs magazine, LatteLife, Mr Ibrahim said it wasn’t about saving lives but freeing up police and other emergency services so they didn’t have to work weekends.
“We tried to pay for more doctors and nurses at St Vincent’s hospital for Friday and Saturday nights,” he said.
“They didn’t want to accept that as they wanted more police throughout the week, only now to be realising the huge hit to not only the night-life, but the significant personnel reductions at Kings Cross Police Station.
“It’s so sad that the State Government used these (one-punch) deaths for gain when kids keep having drug overdoses and dying at outdoor music festivals that continue operating across the country.”
In the strongly-worded interview, Mr Ibrahim said he felt sorry for Sydney’s young people who no longer had a red-light district and said the damage done to the city’s night-life, which he claims took 60 years to build, would take years to repair — even if the lockout laws were revoked.
However, NSW Minister for Police David Elliott told news.com.au the lockout laws had made people in Sydney safer.
“The number of non-domestic violent assaults have declined since 2013 in the Sydney CBD, Kings Cross, Potts Point, Woolloomooloo and Darlinghurst, according to data from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research,” he said.
“The current scheme seeks to strike a balance between limiting alcohol-related violence and maintaining a vibrant night-time economy.”
It comes as the City of Sydney is introducing new planning controls that will allow businesses in Sydney’s CBD to be open 24 hours per day. The council also plans to create new late-night inner-city hubs.
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore says the council is responding to feedback from thousands of residents calling for a better night-time economy.
“More than 10,000 people told us they want Sydney to have a diverse and exciting night-time economy with events and activities for people of all ages and interests,” she said in a statement.
“What they don’t want is a city that is unsafe or that shuts down as soon as the sun goes down.”
The changes include extending hours for unlicensed businesses, late-night trading areas in fast-growing neighbourhoods such as Barangaroo and Green Square, additional hours for performance and culture, and a new 24-hour cultural precinct in Alexandria.
They will not impact on Sydney’s lockout laws but allow unlicensed and low-impact businesses in extended and new “local centres” — including on main streets in Glebe, Chippendale, Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Redfern, Waterloo, Pyrmont, Woolloomooloo and Erskineville — to trade until 2am.