“It’s an embarrassment”: Hemmes on Sydney’s nightlife

13 August, 2019 by
Madeline Woolway

Merivale founder and CEO Justin Hemmes fronted the NSW parliamentary inquiry into the night-time economy on Friday 9 August arguing for legislative change.

Although he originally supported the lockout laws when they were introduced in 2014, Hemmes said they’ve “served their purpose” and “must now go”.

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“…the lockout laws provided a useful circuit break to a culture of violence that had developed,” said Hemmes. “However, I think there is now a strong consensus that the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.”

Hemmes said Sydney’s night-time economy is an “embarrasment”, revealing his venues have had to reject celebrities including Madonna and Justin Bieber thanks to the lockout laws.

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He said there’s been a significant decline Sydney’s vibrancy and pointed to developments such as the light rail, metro and the rideshare economy as reasons to reconsider the legislative approach.

The hospitality mogul said an integrated solution was necessary if the city is to unlock the potential $16 billion injection into the economy, calling the government’s violent venues scheme and three strikes regime “outdated”.

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Any conversation about revitalisation must see these schemes drastically amended,” he said.

Merivale was among a number of prominent hospitality groups to enter submissions to the inquiry, including Solotel, Mary’s Group and Australian Venue Co.

Image: Renee Nowytarger via Sydney Morning Herald.