Most Melbournians would agree that the best thing about their city is the vibrant nightlife and the characteristic culture that takes place after dark. Well, it seems not all people agree…
Once again, Melbourne’s live music scene is under attack. Not from an invading force, nor a killer influenza, but another politician wanting to ‘revolutionise’ with radical transformations and ‘precautions’. Enter John Elliot
In case you’ve been living under a rock, the mayoral candidate of Melbourne has forcefully announced his concern over the safety of Melburnians, demanding changes be made to fix our perceived problematic and violent streets.
The former Carlton Football Club president and head of Carlton United Breweries has set his sights on burdening Melbourne’s vibrant nightlife, with the intention of restoring order after hours.
The vocal politician has called for a 1am curfew for all Melbourne CBD-based venues, preventing patrons from entering the cities 450+ bars- not only nightclubs, but venues which have proven track records of little to no violent incidents – including many iconic live music venues after 1am.
Once again, live music venues are taking a beating at the hands of radical new changes, being pushed by newcomers to the city’s local government.
Mr Elliott’s proposal comes as New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell leads a crackdown of Sydney’s licensed venues and new restrictions on trading, including mandatory ID scanning and the use of sniffer dogs on the streets of Sydney after-hours.
Sydney’s knee-jerk response to street violence appears to be another example of politicians looking for a quick fix to deeper issues nation-wide. Meanwhile, the SA Government’s response to problems with late-night culture in Adelaide has resulted in liquor and licensing changes being made without first addressing the inherently ridiculous laws that are systemic to their city’s policies. For instance The Elephant, near Cinema Place, has a special clause which states that any live entertainment provided on the licensed premises shall be appropriate to and compatible with the operation of a themed Irish Bar or British Pub.
Even more outrageous, CIBO Espresso’s licence prohibits any blues, heavy metal or grunge bands from playing there; while at Purplez they’re prohibited from having live entertainment on a Monday and Tuesday and on a Wednesday performances are limited to solos and duets.
The insinuation of a 1am curfew on Melbourne venues could have a far-reaching ripple effect. 2amlockout.com.au has received a backlog of comments from concerned members of the public, agreeing that It is almost certain that venue owners will see a decrease in revenue as a result, but also, and some would argue more importantly, those who rely on venues to provide them with part-time or casual employment will feel the pinch of a potential cutback in hours.
Smaller boutique venues are now nervously awaiting their fate. With the reduced numbers of attendees, a result of the early lockout, smaller venues will not be able to continue the flow of patrons per night. Unlike larger venues, smaller venues have a lower chance of keeping patrons inside for an extended period; often the result of having a less-established live music presence.
These changes are set to deter people from attending smaller venues in exchange for larger more established hot spots of a night. Again, the little guys are being forced into an uphill battle against radical policy. A report conducted by The Allen Consulting Group, established a direct link between licensed premises and alcohol-related harm.
However, this association is not consistent across all licensed premises. Violent incidents are more likely to occur in areas with a higher concentration of people, rather than areas containing a small number of patrons. However no consideration is given to venues with proven non-violent histories. Once again, the little guys are being punished due to other areas of the city neglecting safe practices.
Mr Elliot’s new proposal however, isn’t as revolutionary as it may seem. It does beg the question of whether he’s breaking the centuries-old rule – “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’?
In 2008, Melbourne’s nightlife was also held hostage under a lockout ruling, which saw venues shut their doors to crowds at 2am. Unlike Mr Elliot’s curfew proposal, the lockout simply closed doors to patrons, rather than forbidding patrons from occupying the streets.
The trial for this 2008 lockout was heavily criticized by not only music lovers (who conducted several protests and demonstrations prior to, and during the trial period for the notable SLAM rally), but also those who were left with the task of enforcing the ruling.
During this two month period, an additional 150 police were required to enforce the judgment, stretching resources to breaking point across the CBD.
Surprisingly, members of Melbourne’s law enforcement were sceptical that the 2008 trial would see favourable results. The police union questioned the plans; saying “only more police on the beat can tackle spiralling alcohol fuelled violence”.
In report from The Age in 2008, Police Association Secretary Paul Mullett said 150 extra patrolling officers were needed in the city centre and only boosted foot patrols could restore order. “It is visible policing that will prevent and control anti-social behaviour, public drunkenness and street-related assaults and crime,” Snr Sgt Mullett said. “We’re not going to be overly critical of a 2am curfew but, from a policing perspective, if you’re providing those core policing services and if 150 (police) were provided today we’d question whether the 2am lockout was needed.”