Cheers for Hong Kong, jeers for Sydney: a drinker’s lament for city’s nightlife

‘People could nonchalantly walk across the street from one venue to another, carry a drink from the previous venue in a glass in hand,’ writes businessman of Hong Kong, contrasting it with ‘ghost town’ Sydney, in article that’s gone viral this week

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 February, 2016, 4:43pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 February, 2016, 7:39pm

Hong Kong has been held up as an example of a city that suffers no harm from liberal drinking laws in a viral online article about regulations it says have led to the “total and utter destruction” of Sydney’s nightlife.

In the 8,000-word article, leading Australian entrepreneur Matt Barrie says the lockout laws introduced by “an Orwellian state government led by evangelical Christians” in response to alcohol-related violence have had such an impact that “on Saturday nights tumbleweeds blow across the main entertainment precincts for Sydney - Kings Cross, Darlinghurst and Oxford Street”.

Barrie cites a litany of grim statistics to show the damage the laws have inflicted on the city’s nightlife sector since 2012: 42 bars, clubs and small businesses in Kings Cross alone have closed, and there’s been an 84 per cent reduction in foot traffic in the area.

The Sydney laws introduced a 1.30am curfew, after which people cannot enter licensed premises, and a ban on selling drinks after 3am. Takeaway alcohol sales are banned after 10pm.

In the article, headlined “Would the last person in Sydney please turn the lights out?”, Barrie says it’s now easier to get a beer in Pyongyang, North Korea, than it is in Sydney.

After describing his astonishment at seeing people drinking beer from glasses outside a pub in London, something that would result in drinkers being “crash tackled by three bouncers and fined” in Sydney, Barrie then turns to Hong Kong.

“I was in Hong Kong a few weeks ago and again I was so completely blown away by the fact that people could nonchalantly walk across the street from one venue to another, carry a drink from the previous venue in a glass in hand in full view of the staff, that I made a video of it.”

Since the article was posted on Wednesday, it has been viewed almost a million times, achieved a global ranking of No 1 on LinkedIn and is the most-read article on the Sydney Reddit site.

“Something pernicious has happened in the 17 years since [the city hosted the Olympics], and Sydney has not just regressed into a ghost town, but there is an undercurrent of something much more sinister in the way the city is being run,” he writes.