Sydney’s fall from a vibrant 24hr world city to an international ‘laughing stock’ is now complete.
Not content with squeezing the life out of late-night clubs and bars, the fun police are now targeting buskers quietly entertaining crowds in the CBD.
Footage obtained by Daily Mail Australia shows an overzealous city council ranger confronting a young man playing classical music to an appreciative audience on the corner of Pitt and Park streets.
Five years after the introduction of draconian lockout laws, it is arguably the moment that Sydney’s nightlife died.
And it happened at 7.30pm on a Friday night.
Not only are buskers being told to pack up for being noisy at 7.30pm on a Friday night, but the once busy streets of Sydney’s nightclub hub Kings Cross (pictured) are empty on a Saturday night as a result of the introduction of the controversial ‘lockout laws’
The lockout laws are in operation in central Sydney (pictured in red) and include 1.30am lockouts and 3am last drinks at hotels, registered clubs, nightclubs and licensed karaoke bars
Sitting over his piano playing classical music on one of Sydney’s busiest concourses was something busker Matthew Clarke had been doing for years.
But as he found out in February 2017, Sydney quickly became a different place after the lockout laws were first rolled out in 2014.
The council officer told him that locals in the area had complained about the noise – despite it being opposite a famous pub and barely five decibels above the sounds of the street.
While Mr Clarke was initially shocked at being asked to move on, he wasn’t the only one – with passersby stepping in to defend the musician and take a stand against bureaucracy gone mad.
‘You can use your discretion… you have the ability to turn your eye away,’ one man told the council ranger.
‘Why are you doing this? This fine young man is entertaining the street, entertaining you and entertaining me – do you realise how unfair this is?’
But the busker isn’t alone in feeling the weight of Sydney’s lockout laws come down on him.
Following a Daily Mail Australia article about the views of long-time Sydney resident Matt Barrie, others shared their stories of being kicked out of pubs or restaurants for behaviour that wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in many other cities around the world.
Mr Barrie first made headlines in 2016 when he wrote an 8000 word essay slamming the New South Wales government’s ‘draconian’ anti-drinking and partying laws.
His post soon exploded in popularity and led to the ‘Keep Sydney Open’ campaign, which has seen thousands of people take to the streets to protest and ask for their city back in recent years.
Having had time to reflect on the impact of the laws, Mr Barrie last week said he now sees Sydney as a ‘laughing stock’.
‘The contrast is really stark when you go anywhere else in the world and come back to Sydney and you realise they’ve turned the city into a wasteland,’ he said.
‘The soul has been sucked out of the city and it is very clear now, years later, that this had nothing to do with health and safety.’
Matt Barrie (above), CEO of Freelancer.com, regularly travels overseas for work and says Sydney has become a ‘laughing stock’ when compared to places like Melbourne, Brisbane and London
Mr Barrie wrote an impassioned rant about the ‘draconian’ laws in 2016 and says that things are now even worse – pointing to the ability of police to enter pubs and nightclubs with sniffer dogs (pictured) in an effort to catch drug users
Who turned the lights out? Sydney’s nightlife has never recovered from the 2014 introduction of ‘lockout laws’ which limit the ability of bars and restaurants to serve alcohol and open late
The death of Thomas Kelly (left) became central to the crackdown on alcohol-fuelled violence after the 18-year-old was hit with a coward punch by Kieran Loveridge (right) in Kings Cross in 2012
Central to the decision to introduce the lockout laws was the death of Thomas Kelly, 18, who was hit with a coward punch in Kings Cross in 2012.
His killer Kieran Loveridge was sentenced to a minimum 10 years in prison.
As part of the crackdown the hours during which bars and restaurants can operate were reduced, leaving many businesses battling and forcing others to shut up shop.
But in recent times patrons have been targeted directly, something Mr Barrie claims he has never seen anywhere else in the world.
‘Nowhere else in the world do you go to a restaurant, a bar or be on a dance floor and have police barge past you with a dog sniffing at your feet,’ he said.
‘They are strip-searching people at Central Station, people just going home from work.
‘Imagine the shock of making your way home, minding your own business and being stripped searched.
‘So the issue isn’t solely around lockout laws – there are draconian laws about plastic glassware, which means you can’t even get a scotch on the rocks after midnight.
‘And ID scanners – what if you have a daughter and a security guard knows where she lives now?’
George Tulloch worked for years at various venues in the busy nightclub district of Kings Cross and saw the changes come into play in front of his eyes.
He said he knew things had gotten really bad when a 10-time Grammy Award winner was refused entry because he arrived after lockout.
‘Justin Timberlake couldn’t get into the after party for his concert a few years ago as he arrived after lockout,’ Mr Tulloch said.
Having seen first hand the impact the lockout laws had on Sydney, Mr Tulloch ran as a candidate for the Keep Sydney Open party at the recent state elections.
Despite his fame, American superstar Justin Timberlake (pictured) was refused entry to one nightclub because he arrived after lockout
George Tulloch ran for state parliament at the recent election because he was so fed up with the impact of the lockout laws on Sydney
‘The weekend before the lockouts came in, 2000 people came through the door at a venue I worked at. The weekend after, 1000 people came through the door,’ Mr Tulloch told Daily Mail Australia about the change in Kings Cross (pictured) because of the lockout laws
‘The weekend before the lockouts came in, 2000 people came through the door at a venue I worked at. The weekend after, 1000 people came through the door,’ he said.
‘I have so many stories… Sydney’s drowning in apathy.’
Kyle Holt grew up in Brisbane and was a regular visitor to the Harbour City over the years.
But while he’d heard a lot about the lockout laws following their introduction, he was shocked to feel the force of the new nanny state rules during his most recent visit.
‘In October 2017, I visited Sydney and ventured into Newtown to see Ian Moss play at the Leadbelly.
‘As I was there way a bit early for the Ian to come on stage, I headed to the Newtown Hotel to watch the Bledisloe Cup on TV.
‘I was sitting quietly by myself in the corner watching the game and had just finished my first beer of the day when a security guard approached me and asked how I was doing.
‘After I replied “good thanks” he said “you’ve had too much to drink and time for you to leave”.
‘I said “beg your pardon, I’ve had one beer and am watching the rugby.” Next minute, two other security staff arrived and they physically escorted me off the premises.’
Kyle Holt was a regular visitor to Sydney, but even he was shocked when he was asked to leave the Newtown Hotel because he was too drunk – despite him claiming he had only had one beer
Mr Barrie said having police sniffer dogs inside bars and nightclubs (left) and conducting strip searches at train stations (right) wouldn’t happen anywhere else in the world
‘What if you have a daughter and a security guard knows where she lives now?’ Mr Barrie said he was concerned about ID scanners being commonplace at bars and nightclubs in Sydney
While the crackdown in Sydney is ongoing, other cities are relaxing their laws in an attempt to reinvigorate their nightlife.
Venues along Brisbane’s popular Caxton Street strip will no longer be forced to scan IDs during the week.
Sydney’s current lockout laws
Lock outs and last drinks: 1.30am lockouts and 3am last drinks at hotels, registered clubs, nightclubs and licenced karaoke bars
Temporary bans: of 48 hours for troublemakers
Takeaway alcohol sales: stop at 10pm for bottle shops, hotels and clubs. This law is NSW-wide
Liquor licenses: two year freeze on approvals for new and existing licenses.
Licensee fines: of up to $11,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months for failure to comply with the new laws.
Revoking of Competency cards and disqualifications: (up to 12 months) for bar staff breaching responsible service of alcohol requirements.
The changes come in part after Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederick was refused entry to a Queensland bar in 2017 because he did not have his ID on him.
Melbourne continues to thrive on its reputation for having the best nightlife in all of Australia.
Even Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews previously bragged: ‘Sydney has lockout laws. Melbourne has 24 hour public transport on weekends.’
Having experienced the city at its best at the turn of the millennium, Mr Barrie believes that it could take decades for Sydney to return to its former glory.
‘At my local pub, The Royal Oak in Double Bay, there is a petition to stop council who are trying to get rid of outside seating,’ he said.
‘When you go to London you can hold a glass and have a drink outside with your friends, but not in Sydney.
‘The thing is that in 1999 and 2000 people were so excited about Sydney because it was all happening – we had the Olympics and were an international destination.
‘Now we’re just a laughing stock.’
‘Would the last person in Sydney please turn the lights out?’ – an excerpt from Matt Barrie’s essay
The total and utter destruction of Sydney’s nightlife is almost complete.
A succession of incompetent governments has systematically dismantled the entire night time economy through a constant barrage of rules, regulation and social tinkering.
And oh, how ridiculous these rules have become in Sydney. A special little person has decided that there is a certain time at night when we are all allowed to go out, and there is a certain time that we are allowed into an establishment and a certain time that we are all supposed to be tucked into bed.
There is a certain time we are allowed to buy some drinks, and over the course of the night the amount of drinks we are allowed to buy will change. The drinks we buy must be in a special cup made of a special material, and that special material will change over the course of the night at certain times. The cup has to be a certain size. It cannot be too big, because someone might die. Over the course of the night, this special little person will tell you what you can and cannot put into your cup because someone might die.
It is now illegal to buy a bottle of wine after 10pm in the City of Sydney because not a single one of us is to be trusted with any level of personal responsibility. Apparently there is an epidemic of people being bashed to death over dinner with a bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that we have all been blissfully unaware of.
When tourists used to visit Australia, they used to marvel at our easy go lucky attitude and laid back lifestyle. Now they go home and call us the ‘world’s dumbest nation’.
Sydney used to be a laid back place where we’re (sic) welcome the world to come throw a shrimp on the barbie. Now if you do that and someone takes offence to the smoke, the NSW Government will fine you $1100 for the first offence, $2200 for the second and probably put you on a registered barbecue offenders list.