You’ve been served: Charlie Lehmann delivers his truth on the Lockout Laws

 

Charlie Lehmann, owner of Ramblin’ Rascals, educated citizen of Sydney and general night-time enthusiast, has been openly dismissive of the believed corruption surrounding Sydney’s Lockout Laws. In a 3-PART series, he gives Meet The People, a strip bare view of the saga from the side we don’t see, the inside.

Not everyone really understands the lockout laws, their practice or their purpose. Actually, most laws and regulations are confusing to the majority, hence our lack of interest and involvement in politics. This, my friends, is not a good thing. Why? Because we’re readily willing to assume any truth fed to us by way of government documentation and subsequent media coverage, then one-day you lose all your fun, shiny toys and no one is happy.

Sure, we go with what they tell us on the news, in the papers; we absorb the associated numbers of violence with liquor like a sponge. But should you look a little deeper, like into some organisations wallets, you’d see there’s much more to the lockout laws than meets the drunken eye.

Tech entrepreneur, most notably known as the Founder of Freelancer.com, Matt Barrie, is someone that is both passionate and disturbed by the lockout laws and the over-regulation of the nightlife in Sydney. While it’s great that someone in his position has stepped in to throw their metaphorical weight around, what’s more interesting is that bartenders like me have been delivering the same message (less a few stats) as this since the law’s inception.

I’m going to take the next three part series to expose the insights, thoughts and feelings of those revolving inside the industry and clarify what it is we see from the inside out. I intend to outline each aspect of the “lockout” laws and provide an opinion as to why they are ludicrous that will be supported by facts and numbers, because that’s what seems to reign supreme here. Let’s start with the gambling equation.

Casino boogie

To be honest, I wish I could make a little animated feature that portrayed the idiocy of the lockout laws. It would most likely play out like this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 3.53.50 pmImagine. Three extremely fat cats, dressed in emerald three-piece suits, sitting on top of a roulette wheel or maybe a flashing poker machine, next to them lazy slugs dribbling legislation over a small map of Sydney, drawn in crayon, devising what areas are blanketed by said stupid law, cut to a shot from above where business owners are portrayed as ants essentially being stepped on all along the way.

Too bad I’m no filmmaker, I’m just a bartender, bar owner, but I can assure you I’m no ant.  The blatant corruption and collusion by the rich and the state government is a travesty and an attack on the democratic processes in place to allow effective checks and balances of power. Why hasn’t the Independent Commission Against Corruption read the statistics put forth by Matt Barrie that so clearly outlines this collusion and gone after these fat cats? Is this because our pockets don’t go as deep?

It’s all about the money, honey

We have been told these laws were implemented to disperse anti-social behaviour relating to alcohol fuelled violence but if any inquisitive person looks closely it is people with vested interests protecting said interests and making huge profit from it via gambling.

Recently the butchers of small bars and hospitality, also known as the NSW Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing, more than openly jerked off a bunch of AHA venues and allowed for them to break the ‘oh so important’ liquor laws so some poor old sod could feed his life savings into a machine just before Christmas.

Venues who actively provide revenue to the state government were allowed to skip the laws swapping later hours in return for an earlier last call all designed so the pokie players could keep on feeding machines.

As an owner who does not have these machines, my venue would not even be considered for such an exemption even though there is no way in the world I’d want one, just so these people could feed their kids tuition fees into a money hungry machine.

This is only one aspect of the laws but it is a very large one. Not only has The Star and Australian Hotels Association venues benefited from the laws but they are also thriving from it.

Fat cat’s have fat pockets

The Lockout Laws were introduced in March 2014 by the NSW State Government and since then both The Star and AHA venues profit margins have increased significantly with one report by its parent company Echo Entertainment outlining “the Star’s underlying revenue was $715 million – up $109 million, or 15 per cent, on the same period last year.” (Michael Koziol, SMH, August 30, 2014)

Within this same period we have seen patronage decline in lockout zones and it wouldn’t take a genius to put to together and see a correlation between no patrons and a fall in violence.  It’s like taking away all the ice cream shops in Bondi and then wondering why ice cream consumption has decreased?

However, those areas with no lockouts have seen an upswing in violence and with The Star again topping this with the Australian Bureau of Crime statistics stating in 2014 that  “between February and September last year there were an average of 6.3 assaults per month”. But shhhh lets not talk ill of something that is a revenue stream for the state government.

Is the government in the house, anyone?

If our state government were actually concerned with anti-social behaviour it’d be best to target the money draining machines that affects the lowest socio-economic levels of Australian society and would by no means intend to destroy small businesses that only want to contribute to a vibrant and culturally significant nightlife. These cases and statistics have been so blatantly trumped up that it’s hard to believe people can support them when they so transparently support special interests of the rich and powerful.

There is a problem with antisocial behaviour and drinking but to place the entire onus on small business and small establishments is plain wrong. As Matt Barrie outlined perfectly “Where landlords can be commercially punished to the point of insolvency due to the actions of a tenant. Where commercial businesses can be punished to the point of bankruptcy due to the actions of their customers. Where the NSW State Liberal Government bankrupts businesses due to the actions of completely unrelated parties, people that have never been a customer or even walked onto the premises.”

We as a people need to draw the line at the Orwellian tactics of the state government and completely tear down all collusion between special interests groups and the levers of government. This nanny state is only the beginning, Orwell stated “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is revolutionary” and Sydney you are kidding yourself if you think these government statistics are whole-heartedly the truth.

Editor’s Note: We deem the Lockout Laws debate as an open conversation. We invite you to contribute and have your say, which ever side of the coin you may lie on.

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