12 June 2022

It's party time: Canberra's nighttime economy to benefit from regulations overhaul

| Lottie Twyford
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Wakefield's Bar & Wine, Ainslie

The ACT Government says it wants to ease the regulatory burden on businesses – especially those operating in the nighttime economy. Photo: Megann Evans.

The ACT Government says a significant overhaul of regulations will help businesses like clubs, bars and music venues operate more easily in the nighttime economy.

This will form only one part of a regulation agenda that has been released following a review of business regulation in the ACT.

It’s already been welcomed by the business community.

Some of the issues raised by businesses operating in the nighttime economy related to areas like noise management, approvals and the fee burden.

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The agenda acknowledged the city’s nighttime economy had been particularly hard hit by COVID-19.

In fact, venues like pubs, clubs and nightclubs had some of the lengthiest restrictions on trading. Restrictions like density limits continued to operate throughout parts of 2021 when the ACT was COVID-free and life in many areas felt effectively normal.

Ultimately, the nighttime economy and entertainment sector operated under some COVID-19 rules for 704 days consecutive days.

The Dock

Owner of The Dock Glen Collins said he’d appreciate relaxed restrictions around music outdoors in the daytime, for example. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Owner of The Dock Glen Collins welcomed what he saw as a “move in the other direction” by the ACT Government.

“Over the last 20 years, most of the rules and restrictions governments of all kinds have put on the nighttime economy have only got stricter and harder,” he said.

“It will be great to see something done to make life easier for hospitality businesses.”

Mr Collins said while his Kingston Foreshore-based business The Dock wasn’t interested in operating later than midnight aside from on special occasions, it would welcome some flexibility around noise regulations.

“In the warmer months, for example, we would like to be able to have music playing outside,” he said.

During COVID-19, the ACT Government helped businesses expand their operations with additional outdoor areas and the like.

“I’d like to see that continue,” Mr Collins said.

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Businesses told the taskforce they wanted to see a more coordinated approach to approvals and regulations in the sector and a broader policy that outlined a vision for the entire sector.

They also called for greater cooperation and flexibility from the government and for clear information to be provided about compliance requirements and inspections. Businesses said a more flexible approach could consider the reduced risk posed by highly compliant and “safe businesses”.

“Business has raised concerns about how this sector is currently regulated,” the strategy read.

Tara Cheyne

Minister for Business and Better Regulation Tara Cheyne tabled the Better Regulation Report in the ACT Legislative Assembly. Photo: Region Media.

“This reform will put in place best-practice regulatory settings. This will ensure that the regulatory arrangements for the nighttime and entertainment economy are meeting their intended objectives efficiently and effectively in a complex and changing environment.”

Work will also get underway to ensure regulation around noise, planning and liquor is actually delivering the ACT Government’s strategic priorities.

The ACT Government, as foreshadowed in the 2020 Labor-Greens Parliamentary and Governing agreement, is also looking at changes to planning laws so it could build a city entertainment precinct.

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Felix the Cat7:17 pm 12 Jun 22

Free parking might encourage people to drive, rather than discourage them. Free or cheaper public transport would discourage people from driving, drunk or sober.

Nice philosophy, Felix the Cat, but I doubt most of those who are ‘out on the town’ on Saturday night in Civic are going to flock to get home via public transport, even if it’s free.

Well, for a start, they could kill the parking fees imposed a couple of years ago from 5.30 to 9.30. Why go to the movies in civic when the parking fees cost more than the movie. Why go to dinner in civic when parking in all other centres is free after 5.30.

Spot on, lyndeelu … typical of the Barr government’s cash grab without considering the true consequences.

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