Revellers in Oxford Street on Saturday night for Mardi Gras will be free to roam between venues in the wee hours, thanks to the government's goodwill gift to the LGBTIQ community.

By Joe McDonough

Posted on February 27, 2018

The lockout laws that have divided a city will be lifted in Oxford Street for this weekend’s Mardi Gras celebrations.

The 40th anniversary of the Mardi Gras also happens to be the first parade since Australia legalised same-sex marriage in December last year, and after lobbying from City of Sydney councillor Christine Forster, the NSW Government has made the decision to scrap the hospitality laws on a one-night-only basis.

Forster — a long-time advocate for gay rights, who recently married her partner Virginia Edwards — wrote to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian requesting a special dispensation for Saturday night as a goodwill gesture to the LGBTIQ community.

“I wrote to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian several weeks ago suggesting that relaxing the lockouts for this important occasion would be a special gesture of goodwill for the LGBTIQ community, many members of which still hold raw memories of the terrible events which surrounded the first Mardi Gras in 1978,” she wrote in a post on her Facebook page.

In the post she also confirmed that Berejiklian had agreed to wave the lockout time of 1.30am-2am. However, last drinks will still be served at 3am (or 3.30am with live entertainment) as per the legislation, Liquor Minister Paule Toole said in a statement.

Businesses that run along the iconic strip will be able to keep their doors open all night too.

“It’s an internationally-renowned event that attracts visitors from all over the world and injects around $40 million into the NSW economy each year,” Toole said of the Mardi Gras.

Many believe Saturday night is a trial run for the reinstatement of a lockout-free Sydney CBD, and Forster suggested she may even push for the reversal of the laws.

They were introduced in 2014 by the Barry O’Farrell government in an attempt to curb alcohol-fuelled violence across the Sydney Entertainment Precinct, bounded by Kings Cross, Darlinghurst, Cockle Bay, The Rocks and Haymarket.

“It was obvious four years ago that some sort of circuit breaker was required to end the cycle of alcohol-fuelled street violence, particularly in Kings Cross. These laws have now served their purpose, however, and it may be possible that they can safely be wound back,” Tony Abbott’s sister said.

It was obvious four years ago that some sort of circuit breaker was required… it may be possible [now] that they can safely be wound back.

“I think the exemptions announced today could serve as a useful trial, providing evidence as to whether consideration can be given to the relaxation of the 1:30am lockout more broadly,” she added.