Opinion: Why we need to march to #keepsydneyopen once again this Sunday

Over the course of the last week, I’ve seen a few people ask the question: why are we marching again? Why are we having another Keep Sydney Open rally? If we didn’t achieve what we wanted to with the last rally, what difference will this make? I got out of bed on a weekend once, why should I do it again if it won’t make any difference?

The fact is, that this is the very thinking that the Baird Government want of people like you and I – “you” being someone who presumably enjoys the Sydney nightlife, and recognises the damage that the lock out laws have done to this city – to undertake. We all know about the damage by now, but let’s take a moment to remember the venues we’ve lost, the reputation that’s been tarnished and the general lack of excitement about anything happening in this city except for during the two weeks of Vivid and Sydney Festival – your government sanctioned “fun time”. Just don’t keep the lights on past midnight.*

Those who know me know I’m generally a pretty positive guy. I don’t like spreading an idea that the city is dead, because it’s not. There’s still so much great nightlife in this city. Venues like Newtown Social Club have picked up the ball from many other great venues we’ve lost and are offering us musical entertainment just about seven days a week. Events like the King Street Crawl prove that we can have a vibrant and exciting nightlife that bursts with music and food and culture. And we’re happy to do it well before our government appointed bed time. But Sydney is better than this. It’s more than this. It has been, and it can be again.

It’s now been seven and a half months since we last hit the streets for the first Keep Sydney Open campaign. This event garnered huge crowds, and sizeable media attention. There were some clear results that came out of this, notably the Callinan review, which was announced just before the march and finalised last month with a 151 page report. I won’t go into details here, as Adam Lewis broke down the failures of the piece so succinctly HERE, but suffice it to say it didn’t even begin to address the real issues – in the same way that the laws didn’t in the first instance.

Throughout the report there’s a persistent feeling that he doesn’t understand how music communities work – Adam Lewis

Also in recent weeks, a lawsuit determined that select live music venues and strip clubs would be exempt from the laws – but its seems that all venues, barring Smoking Panda who petitioned the lawsuit, have kept their trading hours as is, citing police intimidation. And as was pointed out in this video on The Guardian, it’s not even so much the hours that have been put in place, but the blanket rules which don’t make sense to most businesses. It’s illegal to have a whiskey on ice after 12. Even if you spend $100 on the whiskey, you still need to put soda water in it.

So ultimately, not much has changed. And we continue to lose venues. Just in the last week, Oxford Circus have stopped putting on live music – though it would be hard to correlate the lock out laws directly to that decision (the venue is focusing on growing it’s image as a Cocktail Bar), but it continues a trend nonetheless.

This isn’t about letting 18 year olds run havoc on the streets at all hours. This is about grown ups being treated like grown ups and encouraging an ecosystem which punishes people and venues who do wrong things, educates the rest and doesn’t label anyone who wants to leave the house once in a while as a nuisance to society. And when a response to a valid argument is a throw away 30 minute extension to essentially “keep people happy”, it’s clear the government not only continues to fail in understanding the actual problems that the city faces, but they also don’t care. They’d rather let a 79 year old who probably hasn’t stepped foot inside a contemporary live music venue in decades to tell us how to live our lives, and legitimately think that this is a respectable outcome that will keep us quiet. Well, no, we’re not going to stay quiet. And this Sunday we’re going to march.

Moving back onto my opening point, it’s a very “Sydney” thing to think doing something once is going to make a difference. I feel like Melbourne wouldn’t think twice about returning to the streets. This is not something that we need to do weekly, but now that it’s clear that the government *thinks* it’s done everything it *should* do in the wake of overwhelming criticism, it expects Sydney to roll over and say “well we tried”, and give up. Because that’s generally what Sydneysiders do.

Yes I’m antagonising you, the reader, because I don’t want you to make that mistake. This is about you, this is about me, this is about Sydney not… well, sucking – and more than anything it’s about telling this right wing, self-interested government that we’re not going to roll over just because  they *tried*. You didn’t try, you barely listened and now it’s our turn, once again, to remind you that we’re listening. We’re noticing. And we want our city back.

So, get out there and march. It will only fail to make a difference if you’re not there. We have to fight for the right to party, and this Sunday is your chance to do just that.

The march will start at Belmore Park near Central Station from Noon this Sunday, October 9th. Hit up their Facebook page event for more details or look out for the #keepsydneyopen hashtag.

*I’m being snarky, but both events are amazing and integral parts of the calendar. But there are 365 days in the year. A couple of weeks of light doesn’t hide the darkness that you’ve sent so much of the city into, Baird and co.


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.