Fewer people are staying out late at night in the Sydney CBD and surrounding precincts, while antisocial behaviour has continued to decline, a City of Sydney report has found.
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The study paints a picture of how the 1.30am lockout and 3am "last drinks" laws are changing the city's nightlife, suggesting they have reduced the number of late-night revellers on the city's streets while contributing to an ongoing decrease in violence and drunken antics.
At 4am, foot traffic was down by about 800 people apiece in Kings Cross and Oxford Street – just over 80 per cent on 2012 figures. At 11pm on the Friday, the study counted 2000 fewer pedestrians in the Cross – a decrease of 58 per cent.
In both areas, pedestrian activity peaked at or before 1am, in some cases at higher levels than in 2012. That activity then fell sharply and continued to decline, a pattern the City of Sydney anticipated "may be linked" with the lockout measures.
"The lack of a secondary peak between 3-4am suggests that people are leaving the area, rather than staying in venues until closing times," the report noted.
On average, foot traffic was lower in almost all precincts except Newtown and the southern CBD. The latter has undergone a boom in pedestrian activity in the early evenings: between 7pm and 8pm on a Saturday night, 14,352 people passed along George Street between Bathurst and Liverpool streets, making it busier than Martin Place in peak hour. But these numbers fell back below 2012 levels later in the evening.
Newtown, which does not come under the lockout, was the only precinct that sustained higher pedestrian activity on both Friday and Saturday until 4am. Pedestrian numbers were up by more than 200 per cent at their peak, with 1740 more people counted at midnight on a Saturday, according to the report.
The trend was less clear in Pyrmont, which is also outside the lockout zone and contains the Star Casino. Pyrmont was quieter on a Friday night than in 2012, but busier late on Saturday night, with 700 more pedestrians counted at midnight. Those numbers depleted rapidly after 1am, however.
Pedestrian activity around Glebe declined significantly, while Surry Hills and Redfern remained "relatively stable".
The observations took place over two nights in March 2015 and were published in a report, Late Night Management Areas Research: Phase 4, released in January. The authors, from the City of Sydney and consultants Urbis and Austraffic, acknowledged the research only provided a snapshot of two typical evenings in the year.
Surveyors also recorded incidents of antisocial behaviour which they classified as serious (physical and verbal fights, shouting), less serious (staggering, vomiting and street drinking) and non-serious ("incidents of playing or singing").
The number of serious and less serious incidents fell from 3650 in 2010 to 1327 in 2012 and then 703 in 2015 – a decrease of 80 per cent over five years.
Antisocial behaviour halved in Kings Cross from 2012 to 2015, the report found, but the area retained the highest proportion of serious incidents. Of the 185 incidents observed over two nights, 30 per cent were marked as serious.
On Saturday nights, serious incidents peaked at 3am, coinciding with the "last drinks" law coming into effect, while on Friday night, they peaked at 10pm.
"There does not appear to be a direct relationship between the concentration of licensed premises and the incidence of antisocial behaviour," the report noted.
The report will appeal to lockout sceptics who argue the laws have only succeeded in reducing violence by reducing the number of people frequenting the city's primary nightspots.
The measures were introduced in February 2014 and a review will commence this month.
A spokesman for Deputy Premier Troy Grant said the review would consider "all aspects, including the effect the laws may have on the local economy".
The City of Sydney has planned to transform its night-time economy by diversifying late-night entertainment options and attracting older visitors. It wants 40 per cent of night-time visitors to be aged 40 or older by 2030, and 40 per cent of businesses open after 6pm to be shops.
"The City is committed to a safe and inclusive city at night for all residents, workers and visitors, and we support measures to address alcohol-related crime and violence," a spokeswoman said.