Sarah Lawlor interviewed Art Pharmacy Consulting’s Emilya Colliver for the latest edition of Architecture Bulletin: an edition focusing on Procurement and state and federal election issues.

A senior architect at FJMT (a multi-disciplinary Australian design studio), Sarah asked Emilya about the role of the City of Sydney’s Nightlife and Creative Sector Advisory Panel in contributing to a broader range of perspectives on the night time economy.


From strip clubs to supermarkets: five years on from Sydney lockouts '

Sarah Lawlor

Between a series of vacant shops and construction sites, a smattering of flashing neon remnants remain, hinting at Kings Cross’ previous life. Now increasingly dominated by high-rise residential development andsupermarket chains, five years after the introduction of lockout laws, Sydney’s inner-city nightscape is a very different place. There is renewed debate over the heavy-handed policy amidst growing ‘nanny-state’ sentiment, yet the repeal of lockout laws is on neither of the two major parties’ campaign agendas leading upto the 2019 state election.

The impact of the 2014 state policy can be felt far from the Cross. Queues spill out from Newtown venues, snaking down King Street, characterising the increased patronage of recent years as crowds shift towards one of the few inner-city locations excluded from the lockout area. As a result, violence previously associated with Kings Cross has been reported by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research to have been displaced to Newtown and surrounding areas. Along with reduced pedestrian activity in Kings Cross and widespread closures of night-time businesses, the social repercussions continue to be felt, as the historically diverse communities that defined the character of Kings Cross and Newtown are pushed further to the edges.

The Keep Sydney Open party (KSO) will appear on ballots for the first time this election, indicative of growing public discontent over the policy’s ongoing impact. Both KSO and City of Sydney have made submissions to the Review of the Liquor Amendment Act 2014, with recommendations that include concessions for small bars and low impact businesses, aimed to stimulate rather than suffocate the night-time economy. It is the City of Sydney’s neighbourhoods that have borne the brunt of lockout fallout, yet it continues to seek ways to foster nightlife culture. While its night-time economy strategy ‘Open Sydney’ preceded State lockout laws, the City of Sydney has recently sought consultation for a late-night trading policy, as well as forming a new nightlife and creative sector advisory panel.

In conversation with Emilya Colliver, a member of the advisory panel and owner of creative businesses Art Pharmacy Consulting and Culture Scouts, the self-described ‘cultural entrepreneur’ outlined the panel’s role in contributing a broader range of perspectives to night-time economy policy development, with an aim of representing and supporting diversity. From an arts and culture context, Colliver believes the city needs to ‘go deeper’ and diversify the night-time economy, rather than focusing on alcohol related activities. Colliver suggests the importance of the ‘fine-grain’ in compelling cultural spaces, where assemblages of local night-time venues and experiences create authentic community networks within a transforming city, a process difficult to artificially construct.

The gentrification of Kings Cross since 2014 has been fast-tracked, as gritty late-night dive bars and stripclubs were purged by a homogenising wave that swept the inner city suburb. Coupled with increasing property values in the wake of lockout laws and concurrent sales of significant public housing around Millers Point, Waterloo and the Rocks, an undercurrent of inequality endangers the social diversity that was always characteristic of inner city Sydney. Along with Kings Cross and Newtown, these places are now at risk of losing their unique character, influenced over a long history by various subcultures on which they are reliant upon to remain vibrant. In a crisis of affordability, Colliver hopes to guide policy that creates grassroots opportunities for creatives, especially in a market environment where creative need is regularly trumped by developer demand.

The NSW Government recently announced a $1.5 million boost to Sydney’s live music and nightlife economy, seemingly ignorant of the relationship between this struggling industry and its original political blow. As the campaigns of the major parties remain silent on lockout laws, I suspect baby-steps are all we’ll see; framed as a protection of public safety and followed by rapid gentrification and property development, there’s no political motive for repeal.

The discussion around lockouts must now turn introspective. In our concern to preserve our stake as a ‘global city’, we are at risk of losing those elements of what made our city interesting. Perhaps it is a romanticised nostalgia of a place whose lights are now fading, but in the vestiges of its remaining stalwarts I am reminded of the Cross’s once dizzying draw, and hope the lessons from its demise are not lost.

Sarah Lawlor is a senior architect at FJMT studio and a member of the NSW Chapter’s editorial and education & research committees.

The focus of the edition was Procurement and Election issues. Credit: Architecture Bulletin

The focus of the edition was Procurement and Election issues. Credit: Architecture Bulletin

Emilya was interviewed about Sydney’s nightlife Credit: Architecture Bulletin

Emilya was interviewed about Sydney’s nightlife Credit: Architecture Bulletin