Fact check: Do world class cities lack lockout laws?
In February 2014 the NSW Government introduced measures, usually referred to as "lockout laws", to tackle night-time violence in the Sydney CBD.
In February 2016, the Queensland Government brought in similar measures.
Advocacy group Keep Sydney Open is opposed to what it says are "simplistic, band-aid measures" and held a rally in Sydney on February 21, 2016.
The following day, its campaign manager Tyson Koh asserted that no cities similar to Sydney had lockout laws in place.
"Why does Sydney have these lockouts when no other international city worth its salt has these lockouts?" Mr Koh asked on Sydney breakfast radio on February 22.
The same day he said on Channel 7's Sunrise program: "No one has been able to answer the question why Sydney needs lockouts when no other city which has the same amount of people in terms of population, the same cultural diversity - why they don't have lockouts. A city like Melbourne, a city like New York..."
Is there a lack of laws similar to Sydney's lockout laws in comparable international cities? ABC Fact Check investigates
Fact Check has assessed the claim on the basis that the phrase "lockout laws" refers to the full suite of measures introduced by the NSW Government.
The claim is exaggerated.
It is correct that "last entry" times are not in place in major cities outside Australia.
However, the 3:00am last drinks time is not unusual: many major cities around the world impose a mandatory last drinks or closing time, often earlier than Sydney's and close to the 1.30am last entry time.
The 10:00pm blanket closing time for NSW liquor stores is stricter than the rules in place in many other cities, but again is not unheard of in other major cities.
The 'lockout laws'
The NSW "lockout laws" are in place in an area of Sydney designated as the "CBD Entertainment Precinct".
The measures mean:
- Venues cannot admit patrons after 1:30am (last entry time).
- No alcohol can be served after 3:00am (last drinks time).
- All NSW liquor stores need to close at 10:00pm.
The last entry and last drinks restrictions do not apply to small bars (less than 60 patrons), restaurants, tourist hotels or The Star casino.
Tyson Koh tells Fact Check that Keep Sydney Open "believes that the entire suite of liquor licensing restrictions needs a forensic review with certain areas to the policy being redesigned from the ground up".
"This includes a complete scrapping of the 1:30am lockout, 3:00am ceasing of service [to be] applied on a venue-by-venue basis, the exemptions for the casino to be investigated, the removal of the 10:00pm takeaway sale cut-off with applications only to problem rural areas [and] the lifting of the freeze on new licenses and extensions," he says.
1:30am last entry
Prohibiting entry or re-entry to venues after a certain time is used in Australian cities outside of Sydney.
Starting in March 2008, there have been mandatory last entry and closing times in the Newcastle CBD, currently 1.30am and 3.30am respectively.
Melbourne held a three-month trial of a 2:00am last entry time (but with no last drinks time) in June 2008, but it did not continue beyond that period.
In 2013, the South Australian government imposed a last entry time of 3:00am on venues in Adelaide (but with no last drinks time) which still applies.
But examples of last entry times in big cities outside Australia are hard to find.
Some areas of New Zealand impose or have considered such measures, which they call a 'One Way Door Policy'.
A 1:00am one way door (coupled with a 3:00am closing time) is currently in place in Whangarei, a city of around 50,000 people in New Zealand's north.
A last entry time is not in force in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, despite calls by local police for one to be introduced.
Cities and towns in Scotland have had various types of last entry restrictions — Glasgow, Scotland's biggest city and a major nightlife centre, introduced a 12:00am last entry time (called a "curfew") in 1993.
But Ione Campsie, a spokesman for Glasgow City Council tells Fact Check that the "12 midnight curfew for entry to Glasgow nightclubs is now very much consigned to history", having been discontinued around 12 years ago.
In its place are a 12:00am closing time for pubs and 3:00am closing for nightclubs.
Last entry times are not in place in the major US or Canadian cities.
Fact Check cannot say with certainty that last entry times are not in place somewhere in the US, given that liquor licensing laws in the US vary by state and county (some of which are "dry counties" that prohibit the sale of alcohol at any time).
However, Andrew Plunk of the Eastern Virginia Medical School, who researches alcohol policies, tells Fact Check that he is "not aware of [US] cities that lock out new patrons after a certain time".
Fact Check also spoke with Katharine Graham, Senior Scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health at Western University, Ontario Canada, who indicated that last entry times are not used in Canada.
Fact Check has found many examples of mandated "last drinks" times in large, culturally diverse cities.
Dr Plunk tells Fact Check "having a 'last call' after which alcohol cannot be served is standard in the US."
"All of the top US cities by population have these policies, although the specific time that service stops varies," he says.
Dr Plunk suggests that "2:00am is likely the average time for last call across all of the US", although there are outliers such as New Orleans, Miami, Las Vegas and New York City (where last drinks is at 4:00am).
The Alcohol Beverages Control Commission of Massachusetts tells Fact Check that the state Liquor Control Act prohibits the sale of alcohol between 2:00am and 8:00am in the city of Boston and throughout the state.
The "Last Drinks Coalition", an Australian group that supports the Sydney lockout laws, points to 2:00am closing times in force throughout the US state of California and some North American cities including Ottawa and Toronto.
This Facebook post from NSW Premier Mike Baird on the lockout laws attracted over 17,000 comments, most of them negative, and was followed by a protest in the Sydney CBD attended by tens of thousands of people.
"Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego are hardly ghost towns," a spokeswoman tells Fact Check.
Keep Sydney Open's Mr Koh acknowledges the 2:00am close in California, but suggests to Fact Check that "there is a significant culture of all-night parties in residential areas [and] a rampant culture of illegal parties in non-licensed premises that serve alcohol".
Mr Koh also says that the Canadian city of Vancouver has been able "to curb the identified issues with violence within their entertainment precinct, without a curfew".
However, Gerald Thomas, Director of Alcohol and Gambling Policy at the British Columbia Ministry of Health, informs Fact Check that there is 3:00am last drinks in Vancouver, which is "similar to the lockouts policies in Australia".
In Cape Town, South Africa, apart from the airport and special exceptions, standard closing time for venues in commercial areas is 2:00am, although applications can be made for extended trading hours up to 4:00am.
Bars in residential and "mixed use" areas of Cape Town have to close as early as 11:00pm.
In London, there is no specified last drinks or closing time, however "early morning alcohol restriction orders" can be made by local councils, requiring 3:00am last drinks.
A spokesman for the City Council of Manchester, the United Kingdom's second largest city, tells Fact Check that there is no city-wide last drinks or closing time.
However, there are special licensing rules for "Withington stress area" (a small part of the city with a large student population), requiring newly licensed venues to close by 11:30pm.
Of course, there are many other cities — ranging from Berlin to Hong Kong — where licensed premises can operate 24 hours a day.
However, the fact remains that Sydney is not alone in having a last drinks time.
Bottle shop trading times
One of the more controversial aspects of the NSW Government's measures is the across-the-board mandated 10:00pm closure of all liquor stores throughout the state.
Comparing this restriction to those in place in other countries is difficult, given that some countries allow certain types of alcohol to be sold in convenience stores, supermarkets and other outlets.
Scotland has a similar restriction to NSW: alcohol only be bought between the hours of 10:00am and 10:00pm, although it is on sale in both liquor stores and supermarkets.
Opening and closing times in England and Wales for liquor stores and supermarkets differ depending on the licence conditions for a particular premises, but some supermarkets do sell alcohol 24 hours a day
Like other forms of licensing, in the United States, liquor store opening times vary by state, and usually by county. For example:
- New York City: beer can be sold 24 hours a day; other purchases must be made at liquor stores which close at midnight.
- Philadelphia: alcohol can only be bought in government-owned 'Fine Wine & Good Spirits' stores, all of which shut by 10:00pm.
- Los Angeles: liquor stores remain open until 2:00am.
The rules in Canada also differ by province:
- Toronto, Ontario: wine and spirits are only sold in government-run stores, many of which close at 10:00pm (only one closes later, at 11:00pm). Beer can also be purchased from brewery-owned stores called "The Beer Store", most of which close between 9:00pm and 10:00pm, and beginning in 2015 some supermarkets.
- Vancouver, British Columbia: government owned BC Liquor is the biggest retailer, but there are also private liquor sores. A spokeswoman for BC Liquor tells Fact Check that all liquor stores must close by 11:00pm.
In Cape Town, standard liquor store opening hours are between 9:00am and 6:00pm Monday to Saturday, but stores can apply for approval to trade until 8:00pm Monday to Saturday and between 11:00am and 6:00pm on Sundays.
- NSW Government, Alcohol and Drug fuelled violence initiatives
- Keep Sydney Open Facebook post, February 23, 2016
- Nova 96.9, Fitzy & Wippa podcast, February 22, 2016
- Sunrise, 'Water down the lockout laws', February 22, 2016
- KPMG, Evaluation of Temporary Late Night Entry Declaration, Final report, November 2008
- SA Government, Review of Codes Established Under Liquor Licensing Act 1997
- Highland News, 'Bid to scrap city's outdated curfew'. November 24, 2011
- Keeping the Peace: A guide to the prevention of alcohol-related disorder
- City of Cape Town, Liquor trading days and hours
- Manchester City Council, Licensing Policy
- The Beer Store, locations
- Toronto Star, 'Beer finally arrives in Ontario grocery stores', December 15, 2015
- Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, s 65
- Literature Review of Mechanisms to Regulate the Supply of Alcohol for the Development of Auckland Council's Local Alcohol Policy, September 2013
- Kypros Kypri, Patrick McElduff, Peter Miller, 'Restrictions in pub closing times and lockouts in Newcastle, Australia five years on', Drug and Alcohol Review, 2014
- Queensland Government, 'Palaszczuk Government delivers on tackling alcohol-fuelled violence', February 18, 2016
Source: ABC News