A protest against Sydney’s infamous lockout laws, the Keep Sydney Open rally saw about 8,000 people march from Central Station to Hyde Park to encourage the state government to reconsider the bans.

Taking place on 21 February, the march kicked off at 12.30pm and according to the ABC, 8,000 Sydneysiders attended, while SMH reports the figure was closer to 15,000.

The rally saw consumers and hospitality industry members display their opposition to the lockout laws, introduced by the O’Farrell government in 2014 as a means of curbing alcohol-fuelled violence. While foot traffic and therefore violent incidences have reduced since the laws’ introduction, a number of bars, clubs and restaurants have suffered a significant drop in profits, with many including Hugo’s Lounge, La Cita and The Flinders were forced to close their doors.

The laws ban the sale of shots after 10pm, entry into a new venue after 1.30am and the sale of any alcohol after 3am.

While industry figures including John Ibrahim, Sven Almenning (Eau de Vie), Dan Hong (Merivale), Rebecca Lines (Bar H), Dave Evans (Hugo's) and Maurice Terzini (Bondi Icebergs) attended the rally to support the relaxation of the laws, the Last Drinks Coalition, a group of unions representing the state's doctors, nurses, paramedics and police officers, said the laws have made Sydney’s streets much safer.  

"A 32 percent decrease in assaults in Kings Cross is a statistic too great to ignore. These laws have saved lives," said spokesperson Dr Tony Sara.

"This isn't about stopping people from having a good time; this is about making sure that people get home safely at the end of the night."

Over the weekend, the findings of a Perspectives on Alcohol poll, conducted by Galaxy Research and commissioned by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, found that more than two-thirds (68 percent) of NSW residents support the continuation of the lockout laws, and 80 percent of NSW residents feel Australia has a problem with alcohol. The validity of these findings has been questioned on Keep Sydney Open’s Facebook page however, because only 353 respondents took part in the survey.

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