Bidding for an ‘entertainment zone’ to transform the nighttime economy

A vision to transform a major CBD in Sydney’s east into an entertainment hub has been unveiled as business owners say tough council laws are hampering a thriving nightlife economy.

The NSW Government is promising to rejuvenate the live music industry this summer by introducing reforms. These new reforms, which are being introduced to Parliament today, aim to breathe new life into Sydney’s night-time economy. The first key change is to extend the hours that live music businesses can operate. The state government is also keen to minimize the number of noise complaints people can make about a location. The cost of these reforms has been put at $58 million and the NSW Government will increase charges in the hospitality and leisure industry to help foot the bill.

Waverley Council has unveiled plans to revitalize Bondi Junction with an extensive entertainment precinct as part of a proposal pending a decision.

The business is currently restricted to strict opening hours which prevent them from opening after 11pm, with owners and councilors advocating for extended opening hours.

Under a proposed plan due to be discussed on November 21, the Bondi Junction Entertainment Precinct could be bounded by Grafton, Oxford, Denison and Ebley streets and Hollywood Ave.

Terence Klee

Bondi Junction landlord Terence Klee said he lost his tenant, who ran a nightclub at his retail site, because they could no longer trade.

“We can no longer find a tenant because of the short trading hours at night,” he said.

Mr Clee said he held a license to have a nightclub open until 4am – under NSW state laws – on his property, but due to council bylaws they could not open late.

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Waverley councilor Sally Betts will call on the council to explore the necessary steps to create an entertainment precinct in Bondi Junction “to enhance the vibrancy of the Bondi Junction shopping centre”.

Council documents foresee the need to change local planning control.

Council planners said addressing these issues relating to outdoor dining hours, footpath seating and noise levels would be the first key step in bringing an entertainment precinct to Bondi Junction.

Waverly Councilor Sally Betts. Photo: John Appleyard

Cr Betts said allowing hospitality businesses to open later than 11pm would benefit the economy of the eastern suburbs.

“We don’t have any nightlife at all, it’s completely died down now, we don’t have enough restaurants, we have very little music,” she said, “venues are really hampered by Waverley’s own control.

“They only get a license until 11pm at night.”

The councilor said trialling later opening hours for entertainment venues until around 2am “would be a good start”.

The NSW Government is currently planning the creation of more nightlife areas “to promote a diverse environment that reflects the culture of local areas”.

A budget nightlife experiment in Sydney’s inner west was so successful it was made permanent in March.

Bondi Junction could be transformed into an entertainment zone.

“The approved trial and subsequent long-term expansion of the Enmore Road Entertainment Precinct delivered by Inner West Council clearly establishes a model for creating an Entertainment Precinct in Bondi Junction,” council planners said.

“There are a lot of similarities between the Enmore Road and Oxford/Spring Streets areas, so the Inner West model could be used. A variety of border options can be considered, including the two shown below.

Night Economy Minister John Graham said the Government was supporting businesses and councils to improve supply and working hours at night.

“Our vitality package, expected to be debated in the NSW Parliament, provides the framework for councils to change the rules to enable better going out experiences in their area,” Mr Graham said.

Night Economy Minister John Graham. (Photo by Brendan Thorne/Getty Images for SXSW Sydney)

He said the success of the Enmore Road Special Entertainment Precinct, which was “rated as one of the best walking precincts in the world”, was a good example of what could be achieved and he wanted to see other areas get involved.

“At state level, we encourage businesses to innovate and want them to support live performance by giving certainty about noise complaints. One agency, Liquor and Gaming NSW, will become the lead regulator,” he said.

“The days of lonely neighbours, one-on-one complaints closing sites, are over,” Mr Graham said.

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