Lockout Laws Jeopardise Byron Businesses
BYRON Bay has always been one of the coolest surfing towns in Australia, but now it is feeling the cold winds of a big freeze.
Lockout laws, introduced in 2013, force the surfing mecca’s venues to close at 1.30am and have seen nightclubs and bars in the once-thriving seaside town lose up to 60 per cent of their business, say the traders.
Business owners with a bad case of the blues have had to sell or convert their bars and nightclubs into restaurants and daytime venues to turn a profit.
Coco Mangos nightclub was transformed into the Sticky Wicket sports bar in December and owner Gary Charles said if he had not started operating throughout the day, he would have had to close.
“We weren’t turning a profit and wouldn’t have been able to continue if we didn’t make this move,” he said.
Paul Waters sold his popular Balcony Bar and Restaurant in August because he couldn’t see a future for the business after the lockout laws saw it struggle to turn a profit.
“We tried really hard for those couple of years to keep it going but things had changed and it wasn’t getting any easier for us,” he said.
Tweed and Byron Bay police commander Wayne Starling said the lockout laws had curbed alcohol-related incidents significantly.
“From September 2012 to February 2013 we had 303 incidents and in the same time period in 2015-2016 we have only had 164 incidents,” Commander Starling said.
“The community is safe, police are safe and employees are safer — these laws are doing a great job at protecting everyone in the area.”
Cheeky Monkey general manager and Byron Bay Liquor Accord secretary Heath Cornwell said people no longer came to Byron to enjoy the nightlife.
“There is now this stigma that we are a depressed and un-fun town and our late-night social scene is not on people’s agendas,” he said.
The once thriving nightclub has now had to shift its focus towards creating a family-friendly precinct.
Despite the drop in business for bars and nightclubs in Byron, Gold Coast Tourism CEO Martin Winter said the industry was generally in favour of the Government’s intent to deter alcohol-fuelled violence.
“Any negative impacts on the tourism industry will be regrettable,” he said.