There’s a better way to do things than the lockout laws that’s a win for business, a win for patrons, a win for the community and therefore a win for the authorities too.
The lockout laws and the accompanying restrictions on trade e.g. no shots after midnight, were a mistake, an overreaction and a knee jerk reaction that are now at risk of spreading further throughout the industry.
They not only negatively effect late trade but earlier trade too as well as the overall reputation of the area and city into which they are imposed.
Following implementation of the steps laid out in this article, I believe that; business will improve to standards that are better than they were before the lockouts / restrictions on trade were put in place i.e. revenue will go up, the hospitality patrons experience will increase, the community will be safer, happier and more productive with an increased experience of wellbeing. Sydney will be celebrated as an innovative world leader in hospitality.
In honour of the 7 years “Special Alcohol Management Service” (SAMS) has been working on trying to get the industry to take the initiative away from the authorities by implementing SAMS into their licensed venues, so that a) the lockouts would not be required in the first place and now b) that the lockouts can be rolled back, I’ve written this piece; “Goodnight Sydney Or: 7 Things We Can Do To Beat The Lockouts And Lead The World In Alcohol Service Hospitality”.
1) Admit there’s a problem that needs fixing
There’s a lot of good things about the licensed venue hospitality industry in Sydney but there is also room for substantial improvements in the area of patron management. This isn’t only true here but is also the case across the world.
To date the industry has generally been in denial that there was anything wrong that needed fixing in the first place that led to these lockouts and the restrictions on trade being put in place. This was wrong then when this whole thing kicked off and is almost as equally wrong now.
With all the problems happening in the Cross at the time that ended up in St Vincents, with many licensed venues allowing patrons to reach intoxication* and then asking them to leave knowing someone in the queue out the front was waiting to take their place, with many venues sometimes not caring how they get rid of patrons e.g. by bullying them out the door, being violent with patrons as long as they’re no longer in their venue i.e. out of their hair, thus leaving the victims angry on the streets.
Alcohol related injury, alcohol related illness, lack of productivity from people who are badly hungover, drunkeness on the streets surrounding venues etc.. These types of things and others are problems that required addressing back then and still do now.
If the industry wants out of this mess then the first thing to do is to admit there were issues that needed fixing and that still do. That’s the same as with anything where reform and evolution is required.
Also, the authorities have to recognise there are things they can do better to positively contribute to better outcomes.
It was amazing that despite Daniel Christie and Thomas Kelly being killed in basically exactly the same spot in the Cross, within a couple of metres of each other, that the police and the authorities did not receive any scrutiny that I saw for their lack of policing of the streets. Basically not a squeak. If the cross was in Manhattan or Paris it would’ve been crawling with police, but not the Cross for some reason.?
Also, because cops are mostly good people, they want to work with the industry and they don’t know about SAMS, which means they accept sub-standard patron management as best practice which only prolongs the problems.
The police need to be aware of Special Alcohol Management Service (SAMS) as the best option for venues to implement.
Then there are other things too like improved transport options for the authorities to take on etc.
2) Industry to recognise themselves as one and come together
The industry is so big that it’s not united under one umbrella. The only common body between them all is the government’s “Liquor & Gaming NSW”, which doesn’t help much as they basically represent the law which makes the industry’s main concern in this area compliance rather than hospitality.
Great hospitality naturally sees compliance taken care of.
Another problem with the industry is that it’s made up of businesses that don’t take responsibility for, or refuse to see, their role in the overall problems.
An example of that is a venue saying something like “there’s never any problems at my place, so I don’t have to do anything better” but they’re still often putting people out on the street who have been unmanaged and are well on their way to intoxication, perhaps already intoxicated, to cause trouble at the next venue they go to or else on the street or even at home.
The Cross was a classic example of that as most people used to go there after they’d been somewhere else for the first and main part of their night, many of them already having become inebriated.
Each member / venue in the industry has to develop a holistic viewpoint of their role within the bigger picture.
The industry’s components which are made up of restaurants, pubs, clubs, nightclubs, caterers, function centres, sporting stadiums and so on, all have to have one another’s back and to play their role in protecting the industry as a whole.
The industry is one entity, it is viewed as such, treated as such and is effected as one.
3) Recognise areas that can be done better
There are various things that can be done that sound small to some but actually make a massive difference on the ground. These differences are in the management of patrons and the significant things we can do to guide them to best outcomes.
Present practice in most licensed venues is to leave patrons to themselves until obvious problems arise. Most, if not all, venues that would say this doesn’t apply to them would have inadequate steps in place in the eyes of SAMS.
Special Alcohol Management Service (SAMS) is all about putting in conditions that best hospitably guide patrons so that problems don’t come up in the first place or have a minimal chance of doing so. It’s more on the money at doing this than anything else in the industry and significantly so.
Another problem area that can be fixed is to standardise the way we respond to different situations across the industry with consistent best approaches, something that hasn’t been done anywhere en masse in the world. There are many venues with their own training but I’ve yet to see any evidence of anything that’s remotely adequate. In this area it has to be 90-100% right all the time or it’s largely ineffective.
That’s what SAMS does with its theory and the practical 12 scenarios it goes through, it standardises approaches so that best outcomes are consistently met, approaches that have been successfully developed on the floor of real live venues.
Everything from general service to saving a patron from intoxication has to be done correctly whilst allowing some room for improvisation should the specific scenario call for it.
Standardised responses can be best described using the metaphor of sport. Cricket’s the national game so let’s use that as most of us know it, though the example can be used on other sports and disciplines too.
The professional batsman in cricket is very well trained, nothing is an accident. Their stance, the way they hold the bat, all the miniscule movements that go into a forward defensive shot, a drive, a hook, a pull shot etc are all meticulously trained into instinct and muscle memory.
Then there’s the different shots for the different balls bowled, a forward defense or a drive for a half volley, a hook shot for a short pitched delivery and so on. They’re watching the ball closely out of the hand, sometimes moving their feet to take the initiative like dancing down the wicket to a spinner to counter the spin.
In venues things are metaphorically the same where the batsman are the staff playing both individually and as a team. The deliveries, i.e. the situations that arise, being bowled vary and require different responses of which there are appropriate ways for best outcomes or inappropriate ways that bring about wickets / problems or near misses.
At the moment at best, the industry is full of people who can play shots to some deliveries but not the others. They are like backyard cricketers playing in the professional arena. The bowling is always of a professional standard in this metaphor so the batsman, the venue staff, have to be trained up to a professional consistent level i.e. the backyard cricket standard doesn’t cut it.
The fundamental shots that include safety and proactive actions are widely missing across the board. SAMS exclusively recognises these and trains them.
There are people holding the bat incorrectly, playing hook shots to yorkers and forward defensive shots to short pitch deliveries. This is because before SAMS there was no training in the industry to standardise responses with best approach, staff just had to learn mostly as they went along, constantly having to reinvent the wheel.
Training proven successful approaches into staff is a no brainer and clearly makes a significant difference as has been seen in practice at licensed venues where SAMS has been properly deployed.
4) Get rid of the cultural cringe factor and lead
Many point out that there are no restrictions overseas on alcohol service which misses the basic point that there are still problems overseas around alcohol service. SAMS is an opportunity of something that Sydney can give to the world.
The cultural cringe factor is when Australia has no guts or trust in herself to go it alone or to have a crack. This has been happening a lot on this topic with many pointing out other cities around the world where measures have been put in place to help curb anti-social behaviour or where they separate the night time economy from residential areas etc but not looking in our own backyard for solutions e.g. at SAMS.
Amsterdam is a good example that get’s brought up, particularly with their night hosts that wander the streets. But back in 2011, with respect, I tried to pitch to the City of Sydney Council and the Kings Cross Liquor Accord a similar idea that would’ve been superior to Amsterdam’s in both effectiveness and hospitality outcomes.
I understand their reasons at the time for turning the idea down because a) they thought we’d get attacked (I didn’t think that) and b) that it was too expensive (it would’ve cost each venue around $50-$100 a weekend night). I bet with the benefit of hindsight they would’ve given it a go. I’m convinced that properly implemented it would’ve saved the Cross and all of us from this mess we’re now in.
It’s true. People might say the lockouts are an example of Sydney going it alone and they’d be right, but it’s the worst kind of example. It’s the one where we say “Can’t do!” I.e. we’re too thick to sort this thing out for the benefit of the venues, the patrons and the community so let’s just shut it down.
I understand why they’ve done it, they can’t see any other way but I for one have been trying to push this other way for 7 years now. The relevant government agency knows about it but refuses to help SAMS get out there as it’s a private business.? I thought the government were supporting innovation nowadays? Would they say the same if it was some cure to some disease? Which, by the way, it basically is.
And the industry itself has so far been largely too distracted or else obsessed with point one in this list of 7 to be able to pull itself into the light of real action. Perhaps they think that if they admit there’s things to be fixed that it will be the beginning of the end, I say it will be the beginning of a brighter future.
I want more people going out, not less. This is possible and is part of SAMS ultimate goal.
5) Take the initiative
The industry in Sydney, the licensed venues, have to get together as a unit and take this issue by the scruff of the neck if there’s going to be traction. There is a bit of “if that’s what they’re doing over there, then we’ll do something else over here” kind of thing going around i.e. silly rivalry between venues and venue groups which is obstructive and close minded. This issue has to be like having refrigeration i.e. every licensed venue has it.
SAMS works on any type of person as it works on basic psychological and physiological human traits we all share. People who say that it wouldn’t work for their patrons are flat out wrong, it’s already been proven to work on every type of patron there is.
Having said that though it does take implementation. SAMS is a roll your sleeves up and get in there approach. If venues don’t apply it then it doesn’t matter if they’ve been through the course training, it won’t work. You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
So far, the industry has been sitting mostly on it’s hands complaining and then just organising to complain louder. Complaint is good and has it’s place, the lockouts etc were an over reaction by the government which have caused mass damage to the industry, Sydney’s reputation nationally, internationally and at home.
But complaint must be accompanied by innovation here which is what SAMS is. It’s a simple solution that’s wrapped up in the complexity of the human psyche so it’s something that one is forever improving at.
As well as justifiably complaining, the industry has to take the initiative and put in real measures that are solutions that add to the hospitality that the patrons receive, that increase business, and that add positively to the community experience.
Scanning machines, lock outs, restrictions on drink sales e.g. no shots after midnight are unnecessary if the staff is on their game and by training them in SAMS that’s the way to achieve that.
6) Put Special Alcohol Management Service (SAMS) into place at all licensed venues
The only way I can see us getting out of this mess is for the whole industry to effectively put SAMS into place. It’s best outcome comes from all members of the industry going through the training and implementing it properly in their venues and on their surrounding streets.
Individual staff in each venue represent a link of chain and a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link. The same goes for the industry made up of licensed venues, with the industry being the chain and each venue being a link.
The SAMS training is priced inexpensively so as to help venues make the decision to move forward on enrolling their staff into the course.
Put SAMS in the main mix Sydney and let it take us to a place that we’re all even more proud to call home!
7) Lobby the government and the public
Once SAMS is in place in all licensed venues and things are humming along then lobby the government by demonstrating the clear positive changes that have come about and bring the public back on board by increasing the hospitality they experience, showcasing to them their increased safety and the fun times to be had.
I want licensed venues to be recognised as the safest place to go drinking because the staff there are so well trained. This is something that any licensed venue should see the benefit of achieving.
Lobby the government and the public in this way and with time I predict more autonomy will be given back to the industry along with relaxed trading restrictions. The result will be a better and safer drinking culture. Business will thrive. Sydney will be celebrated.
So there they are, the 7 things Sydney can do to beat the lockouts and lead the world in alcohol service hospitality. Let’s do this Sydney! Throw SAMS the keys, or at least put it at the main table and let’s just sort this out.
A few final points;
1) Anyone who says nothing good happens after one in the morning is ignorant.
2) It may be a minority of people who want to go out late now but over time most people at some stage of their life go out for a late night or many more so in actual fact it’s a majority of the population who get value from the late night culture during their life experience. Especially as late night culture positively influences both daytime and early night culture too.
Cheers to Patrons. Cheers to Business. Cheers to the Community
A Win, Win, Win Solution for Patrons, Business and the Community
*Intoxication: is when a patron’s speech, balance, behaviour or coordination is noticeably affected by the consumption of liquor / alcohol. I.e. basically they’re a mess and it’s time to go home.