For my 18th birthday in 2013, what now retrospectively seems to mark the end of my partying freedom, I went clubbing with friends in Kings Cross.
We started at a Japanese restaurant (hello, sake!) and progressively jumped from pub to pub until around 3am, when we taxied to a club and danced away the early hours of the morning. I don’t recall even buying a drink at the club, it seemed the appeal for most people was the dance floor. No harm was done and, when we crawled into bed at 6am the next day, we genuinely felt invincible. We chatted excitedly about the nights to come, anticipating our 20’s ahead of us.
A few months later, I went abroad to spend a year in the United Kingdom and, when I returned to Sydney at the beginning of 2015, I was greeted by a dead city. It was as though I had said goodbye to a loving parent and returned to a stubborn, sullen, over-protective one.
The prospect of gaining entrance to any club or pub after 1am was greeted with "don’t bother", and "we won’t get let in anyway", followed by everybody getting into taxis and going home. Perhaps the effect of the lock-out laws wouldn’t have felt so potent, had I not been away during the time they were being debated. But, after stumbling out of clubs at dawn in Greece, Berlin and London for a year, I was incredibly disappointed.
Sure, statistics do show violence has declined in areas like Kings Cross since the lock-out laws were introduced. But this drop has nothing to do with people not going out after 1:30am, and everything to do with no one being out at all. There is no time-stamp on violence.
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A city that was once known for it's heaving nightlife has been silenced in an attempt to change culture through legislation. But culture has nothing to do with legislation. Violence is a societal problem, and is not constrained to alcohol-fuelled areas such as Kings Cross. Implementing lock-out laws is treating a symptom, and is an easy way to avoid dealing with the real causes of substance abuse, domestic violence and binge drinking.
Wanting to party in the early hours of the morning does not make me a criminal. Neither does wanting to go for a drink after a concert ends at midnight, or wanting to hit the town after submitting an assignment by 11:59pm.
Premier of NSW Mike Baird doesn’t have to live with the consequences of his legislation (what's he doing at 12.05am?), I do. And that's how I know lock-out laws are punishing the wrong people.