We are writing to you out of severe and genuine concern for the future vibrancy, cohesiveness and overall wellbeing of the LBGTQI community here in Sydney.
This concern arises over the outrageous overreach of the ‘Lockout’ laws, which have severely disrupted gay culture on Oxford St and surrounds. The Inner West Courier recently published a letter proposing that the laws be extended to Newtown and Enmore, and whispers abound that an extension of the laws is on the political agenda. Inner West establishments have soaked up much of the exodus from Oxford St since the laws have been enacted. While we don’t believe the lockouts are correct, it has been wonderful to see bars in our local area being patronised by people of diverse genders and sexualities, as well as new queer establishments and events taking off.
It may sound trivial to a heterosexual outsider, but the liveliness of these districts is quintessential to Sydney’s LGBTQI community. The lockout laws have severely disrupted the dynamic of the Oxford St precinct, whereby LGBTQI people would go from club to club, meeting up with their various friends and acquaintances on a night out clubbing. Now, after 1.30am, members of the community are stuck on ‘islands’ in each venue, damaging community cohesion and isolating friends from one another. We fear that this imposed isolation dynamic will damage this world famous gay village further, and the community will continue to disintegrate and degrade.
On a night out, we have repeatedly witnessed international visitors being bewildered by the 1.30 lock out and last drinks at 3am policies (effectively for most venues it’s ‘throw out’ time, as there’s no income to be made). They can’t believe that this supposed ‘world-class’ city has such policies in place.
Suggestions that lock out laws in the Inner West will protect its neighbourhood vibe or increase safety are missing the point. For many LGBTQI people who party in Oxford St or in the queer-friendly bars of the Inner West, these are the safest spaces in Sydney – where there is less worry about street-harassment, shaming, or running into embarrassed homophobic acquaintances. While the media panders to the ‘King Hit’ narrative, few outlets have touched on the aggression these queer precincts create a safe-haven from.
The Sly Fox Hotel in Enmore is still Sydney’s only openly-dedicated Lesbian bar and, for this reason alone, should always be allowed to revel in its 3am closes and reputation as the place where you go to finish a great night. The night-time queer events that have popped up in the Inner West such as Homosocial, Tokyo Sing Song’s Thursday night and Zanzibar’s Birdcage are welcoming new people to the Inner West and sending a message to locals that their desires are valid and embraced.
Business is booming in the Inner West’s night spots, as well as providing a home to a marginalised community, while the sad fizzling out of Oxford St becomes more blatant. Extending lockout laws has no logic (except that of a straight-man’s) and we are not sorry – we are here to stay.