What Could Be: A Look At Australia’s Idiotic Lockout Laws

By Terry Gotham

For the Aussie Burners, this is going to be old news, but I wanted to take some time to explain what’s occurred across Australia, as it relates to the continued specter of clamp-downs, permit-driven events and the challenges cities like LA & NYC present to even the most seasoned producers. Lockout laws have eviscerated the once legendary Australian nightclub & dance music scene. After following the story for months and seeing a second Australian state engage in this idiocy last month, I couldn’t stay quiet anymore. New South Wales is one of the fronts in the war against drug checking, with pill testing being done at festivals, despite government bans or restrictions. The parallels between our fights provide opportunities for learning, while showcasing champions of harm reduction, like Alex Wodak, president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation and business leaders willing to stand against the pearl clutchers.

Since 2010, lockout laws (laws forcing bars & clubs to stop serving alcohol and shut their doors early) have been enacted across Australia. In Sydney, a survey way back in January purported to find that 68% of NSW (the state Sydney is in) residents supported lock outs. This was interesting because a similar number (60%) also said they considered the city unsafe on a Saturday night. In the United States, in a lot of suburban areas, I bet you could probably find similar levels of support for Blue Laws (laws that prevent the sale of alcohol) and dry ( totally alcohol free) counties. In Baltimore, for example, last call is at 1:30, sometimes earlier, which ensures a lot of drunk people end up on the street, sometimes, before they’re ready to leave. The survey didn’t provide location data or any real information on demographics, only 353 people were polled, and it was sponsored by The Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education, an anti-alcohol advocacy organization, we can see who could be on the other side. There’s a healthy amount of fear-mongering going on, which is surprising, given that Sydney was voted the safest city in the world as recently as 2013, as referenced by their own Tourism page. Oh, and for anyone keeping score, dry counties in the USA have severe meth problems. But, enough about hyperbole and exaggerated claims. What’s actually happened in Sydney?

  • Introduction of 1:30a “lock-outs” (if you leave you can’t go back in) & 3a last drinks.
  • State-wide shuttering of liquor stores at 10p.
  • On-The-Spot Fines of up to $1,100 for disorderly conduct or disobeying a police officer.
  • Police allowed to impose “immediate” precinct ban of up to 48hrs to anyone they see fit.
  • Freeze on new liquor licenses (even if venues with existing licenses shut their doors)
  • A couple of good things, like free buses.

Over the last 4 years, King’s Cross, a storied region for bars, clubs & restaurants in Sydney has lost 84% of its foot traffic, forcing 40% of small nightlife based businesses in the region to close. Oxford Street, another thoroughfare, lost a similar 82% of foot traffic, with a commensurate drop in revenue. Venue after venue has closed their doors for the last time. This is salt in the wound to a nightlife market that saw a 60% drop from 2010-2012 when precursor regulations kicked in. The only institutions that are exempt from these laws are casinos, which is hilarious and terrible. If a casino is the only place you’re able to drink after a certain hour, how long before you decide to play some slots with the change from your late night snack? How long until you start going out on the weekends just to go to play blackjack? I think we can agree that Las Vegas casinos can be nice and all, but casinos at large can be exceptionally predatory, much more so than a live music venue or even a bar, that’s the reason why it is better to go to an online casino like www.PokieGuide.nz, it is so much better. And they do so, because it’s staggeringly profitable for them to do so.

The Star Entertainment Group, one of the larger gaming groups in Australia, has seen its share price more than double over the last 3 years, from $2.30 in December 2013, up to $5.74 as of July 18, 2016. This increased revenue comes not only from Casinos being open later, but being there to grab customers who are looking for places to go now that 40 of their favorite live music venues have closed. Additional revenue comes from relaxing restrictions on daily gambling limits for gamblers with a problem, which is about as gangster as you can get. While the UK is protecting venues, Australia might as well be burning them to the ground.

The pretext for these laws includes a campaign to raise awareness about “one punch” attacks, a rash of overhyped violence similar to the “Knockout Game” that occasionally pervades the news cycle here in the United States. Penalties for “random” or “drug and alcohol fueled” violence are varied across the country, but were implemented after a couple of high profile assaults had conservative forces attempting to crucify live music in punishment. These laws didn’t reduce the assault levels, but that didn’t stop sitting members of government from saying they did.

Matt Barrie, prominent businessman & founder at Freelancer.com has spent the last several months rigorously documenting how bad these laws are. His first article, “Would the last person in Sydney please turn out the lights?” was exhaustively researched and exceptionally well-received was the #1 read article on LinkedIn when it dropped in February. His second one, is even longer & more exhaustively researched. If you’re into this kind of policy wonk stuff, I encourage you to read both. They’re a master class in how to dismantle institutional bullshit.

A bad idea usually spreads, much to the chagrin of the Brisbane nightclub & live music scene and Queensland. NSW’s neighbor state approved similar laws, with them taking effect last week. After midnight, shots can’t be ordered, some venues will be forced to close at 2am, with “late-night” venues closing their doors at 3am. It looks as if they’re totally ignoring the protests that occurred in Sydney.

The party people in Sydney have been fighting back as hard as they can. Rallies, internet campaigns, celebrity advocacy & parties have occurred for months to try and get the changes reversed. Millionaire, venue & construction company owner Scott Hutchinson has gone on record to say he’d be willing to bankroll “whatever is necessary” to get the Queensland’s lockout laws back off the books. Even if he can’t get them removed across the country, a state-by-state fight could be successful if planned correctly. A motley crew of supporters in Queensland is attempting to help Scott, but right now, they need all the help they can get.

Mike Baird, the NSW premier is not popular. No seriously, like, 84% negative reactions to his posts supporting lock out laws and anti-event actions. He demanded festivals “do something” about deaths, then refused to allow pill testing & other forward thinking harm reduction measures, I’d say he’s earned the ire he’s getting. Maybe getting compared to Vladmir Putin by morning radio in NSW is a bit much, but when morning shock jocks are calling you a kleptocrat that’s out of touch with the people, you’re probably not doing everything right.

Interestingly, Victoria (another Aussie state) cancelled their own 2am lockouts year sago. Melbourne tried it, and it went hilariously badly. No seriously:

Independent audit firm KPMG found the Melbourne lockout led to an increase in reported assaults between midnight and 2am and also between 2am and 4am. There were also more ambulance trips due to assaults between 8pm and midnight, compared to the three months before the lockout. ~The Age, 2014

The demands from protesters who are fighting against them are almost mundane. Lifting of late night retail restrictions, late-night transportation (San Francisco, take note), ending the new license freeze for live music venues & small bars (to help get new businesses back in the area), and the creation of a Night Mayor, a city official that New York City desperately needs. This includes a creation of a 24hr area of the city, with late night work & play spots, and administrator of that space, called the Night Mayor. By smoothing relations between that region & the neighboring communities, this person can greatly affect the success of nightlife, and how the live music/bar/club community is viewed by the city at large. It’s such a good idea, there are now Night Mayors in Paris, Toulouse, Zurich & Amsterdam, with London and Berlin debating creating one.

So, what does this have to do with LA, San Francisco & New York City? Los Angeles flirted with banning electronic music events entirely this spring, with that measure being defeated despite the best efforts of a number of groups. New York City is all but devoid of outlaw events, with retail venue rentals regularly exceeding 5 digits in booking fees alone. Economic activity from electronic & live music events could be not only shared by many more producers that don’t have the cool $35,000 to throw a party with actual headliners, and communities wouldn’t have to hate renegade parties and Burns, if we can learn from Australia’s mistakes. Berlin, London, Munich & Amsterdam could teach major American cities a thing or two.

Not just about how to make small business thrive, but how to keep partiers safe, by deploying smart, tested harm reduction best practices. With people willing to go to jail to deploy these practices in Australia, perhaps the Mayors of San Francisco, Miami, LA & NYC can see the gift horse being presented to them. This could lead to a lot of money being made by non-party people. Capitalize on the surprisingly non-deflated live & electronic music markets in their respective cities, and test out harm reduction/security/law enforcement tactics that have been honed across both oceans,  If all of a sudden, this stuff works, and it’s easier, and safer to throw events in these cities, who knows, it might spread. It’s fun to dream.

(Thanks so much to Stoney Roads for their continuing coverage of this story & general dopeness when it comes to music choice and their give-no-fucks attitude.)

Notes On Two Wheels: Stupid Laws, Stoned Burners & Public Transportation

BicycleAs I mentioned autonomous vehicles (self driving cars) in a previous post, I felt it was only fair to discuss one of the other issues that ties San Francisco, New York & Black Rock City together: Drunk people on bicycles.

DzrsqldpTGy9rmx4Mze3_Popcorn BallgameNow that I’ve got your attention! Whether it’s the deep playa, SoHo, or any of those insane hills you Frisco people shoot down on the way to work, we’re all pleased that bicycling is catching on finally here in the United States. After being a niche for the well-to-do & granola among us in the 90’s, out East, the trend started picking up speed in the 2000s & now NYC has bike paths, while you get odd looks if you show up with an SUV anywhere outside of LA. As we all know, biking is better for the environment, can save you cash & gives you those crazy calf muscles. However, we’re starting to see something unnerving here on the East Coast that I know SF & Black Rock City has had to deal with for some time. And that would be biking under the influence. Continue reading

Hey Plug & Plays, Bring Self-Driving Cars To The Playa!

by Terry Gotham

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ve heard about autonomous vehicles, or self-driving cars. It’s moved so far out of the Google/Silicon Valley bubble that late night talk shows are cracking jokes about the emerging technology. The sophistication inherent in these vehicles has been expanding in leaps & bounds, to the point where entire towns have been built to test them. The tech is so good now that there’s not even a point to having a steering wheel. As it starts to move into the realm of policy & actuarial models begin to incorporate these cars, it’s time to give ourselves a break. At the risk of sounding self-important, let’s think of what we can do with these things besides reduce congestion, eliminate drunk driving & dampen carbon emissions worldwide.  The nice things is that some of these cars use the same parts as the regular cars, so if you already have a site when you search about car parts as garage chief you can still use it for a self-driving car.

While I know this is totally impossible for this year’s thing in the desert, I’d love to put it out there to get you thinking about it while you’re roving the playa. I think Google & all of the self-driving car companies need to start field-testing these things out at Black Rock City. I think we’ve seen hundreds of people injure themselves biking in the darkness, everyone has heard or experienced a story where they’re moving around in the dark and someone doesn’t have the right blinky shiny. 

So let’s put these bad boys to work. Just think about it. shuttle service to & from the temple, the DMZ & the man. Chart an expedition to the trash fence & sip cocktails on the way out there. Swarms of autonomous vehicles that follow art cars, having little micro-parties inside of them, while connected to their sound system. I think the people who are developing these vehicles should most certainly think long and hard about investing hardware & experiential gifting to their design arc.

Yes of course people are still going to want control options, and because of the fact that it’s on the playa, maybe they could have them. or maybe it could just be a nice little exercise in “letting go.” I’ve always thought of Burning Man as what a colony of settlers would look like, when we finally get to places otherworldly. I think the futuristic, neo-urban vibe could not only be enhanced by the cars, but building in an automated transit system is possible there more easily than any other art/music festival in the world. But, it would also be hilariously expensive. And this is where all those 1% camps come in. Hey extensively wealthy people who go to the plug & play camps on the outskirts, want to get around & see the cool things, but don’t want to talk to anyone, got an idea for you. What if, y’all funded this stuff, in exchange for having your own personal/slightly better transports. Here’s how it looks: the tech illuminati that hang out at BM just magic’d up a “hazard test” for the technology, brought it to the playa, got everyone to sign a second death waiver, and then can access the service to transport ice, get to the deep playa, or just make it from 10 to 5 without having to bike in the 1pm sun. Obviously, priority would be given to Rangers, Green Dot transporting patients, children, the elderly and that one time you swore you saw a pregnant woman on playa. Transport could have BM radio piped in and be re-directed during events and help ensure people aren’t traveling through the deep playa stoned as fuck.

In exchange, the 1% get future vehicles on playa, and of course, I assume their personal rides would be better than the ones your average attendee would interact with. This, for everyone who has forgotten the time, is the experience most people who don’t have access to art cars experience anyway. This would also give them a way to prove they have something to contribute, even if they don’t want to leave their plug & play camps outside of the IncuBubble rides they’ll be testing out.
Some of this may be tongue in cheek, but I think this is definitely within the realm of the possible. Especially with the micro-deployment that could be tested out, in addition to the more sophisticated feedback you’d just happen to get because of the breadth & depth of technical experience and straight up lifestyle of the different burners using your product.

People keep asking for their jetpack as proof that it’s the future. Forget jetpacks. I want my robot car. Specifically, I want a robot car to take me from party to party on playa & when I get bored of that, I want to be able to tell it to follow whatever art car replaces the Dancetronauts juggernaut. It’ll drive along matching speed & direction, possibly even broadcasting the audio out of the speaker system inside of my pod car. Perhaps a couple of channels, illustrated by what color the pod glows. Kind of like Silent Disco headsets, but with cars. Do you agree?

Playa Wear Trunk Shows Coming Up

If you’re in San Francisco, whether you’re going to Burning Man or not you might want to check these shows out. Always a fun crowd, and you’re supporting your fellow Burner fashion artists.

Lorelei says:

wanted you to know about a few Amazing Playa sales coming up for costumes to help Burner culture be able to radically express themselves to the fullest on the playa. These sales are like a box of crayons as they offer something for everyone from fairy, steampunk, hippie, leather feather, gypsy swank, tribal fusion and so much more. Carefully curated New pieces from all over the world to your local used thrift store scores. Not to be missed. These events are full of happy customers who were thrilled to get unique playa outfits at AFFORDABLE PRICES! Let your camp mates know & go together to coordinate your playa gear.

San Francisco Sales: 615 Indiana St | SF (Warehouse on same street as SF Decompression)
July 25th: https://www.facebook.com/events/780609732053508/
Aug. 9th: https://www.facebook.com/events/1613007802280058/
Aug. 22 &23rd: https://www.facebook.com/events/465793750256053/

Only East Bay Sale: Subterranean Arthouse | 2179 Bancroft Way| Berkeley
Aug. 2nd: https://www.facebook.com/events/478443448989696/

25 July at 11:00
615 Indiana Street, San Francisco
401 people joined

Things That Only Happen in San Francisco

Broke-Ass Stuart brings us a couple of amusing takes on San Francisco city life.

Things are a little different over here in Marin!

This one contains an interesting pro-tip at the end for Burners who don’t want to spend 8 hours in the sun at Will Crawl (or 90 minutes at their keyboards in Ticket Hell):

Before you race to spend twenty bucks, you should be aware that Buzzfeed said Burners using TaskRabbit is “rejecting everything the Playa stands for”

The Kinda Late Show with Broke-Ass Stuart is a new monthly live show with a San Francisco slant.

BAS_BookAd_v1.1The Kinda Late Show with Broke-Ass Stuart is a live “late night” style show with a distinctive San Francisco slant.

There are unbelievable live performances, famous musicians, titilating interviews, and hilarious video sketches. Plus there will be Broke-Ass Stuart in a suit, behind a desk, talking shit as usual.

Guest have included:
Kari Byron (MythBusters)
Veronica Belmont (Tekzilla, Sword and Lazer)
Boots Riley (The Coup, Street Sweeper Social Club)
Josh Constine (Tech Crunch)
Gabi Moskowitz (BrokeAss Gourmet)
and many more.

You have never seen a late night show as weird and wonderful as this.

The last show sold out. As with Burning Man…get a ticket if you can find one. Or get in line.