‘Lockout’ laws or ‘rock out’ laws? Governing Sydney’s night-time economy and implications for the ‘music city’

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‘Lockout laws’ are not new in Australia – variants exist and have been trialled or continue to operate in Newcastle (since 2008), Melbourne (abandoned in 2008), and Adelaide (since 2013) and Darwin (since 2007). In February 2014, the New South Wales O’Farrell Coalition government introduced 1.30 am lockout and 3 am last drink laws for the Sydney CBD (Central Business District), among a series of other measures. The subsequent controversies about the ‘lockout laws’ in Sydney have provoked a curious and vivid set of debates encompassing crime, medical, moral, social, libertarian, cultural and industrial discourses. In this paper I wish to assess the new regulatory landscape within historical and contemporary perspectives of nightlife economies increasingly privileging cultural and entertainment city uses. Beyond unpacking the ‘lockout’ debate in terms of ‘liveability’ and ‘cultural city’ meanings as practised by Australian cities, this article will focus on the implications for Sydney’s ability to maintain its national and global status as a music city.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)500-514
Number of pages15
JournalThe International Journal of Cultural Policy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Lock out laws
  • music venues
  • night-time economy

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