Night-time economy

Night-time economy

Planning for Sydney at night

In 2018, an extensive consultation process brought forward the views of more than 10,000 people. They called for late night activity near where they live, increased opening hours and a greater diversity of things to do after dark.

In response, the City of Sydney updated planning controls (refer to Item 8.2) to provide the foundations for growth of Sydney’s nightlife into the future. The City of Sydney’s new controls include some of the biggest changes to city planning in a decade.

They allow for the following:

A 24-hour city centre – Spanning from Darling Harbour in the west to Hyde Park in the east and Central station in the south. Currently, most venues in this area may trade until 5am with approval. Allowing 24-hour trading across the entire city centre may reduce issues such as crowding, queuing and noise at existing hotspots. These businesses will also be able to take advantage of the future Sydney metro, which will operate 21 hours a day and include 4 stops in the new zone, and the city centre light rail.

Later hours in local centres – Trading hours for low-impact businesses along village main streets such as Crown, Redfern and Union streets and Glebe Point Road would be extended from midnight to 2am, to align with recent changes to NSW small bar laws. The new hours would only apply if patrons enter and exit the venue from a main street and not a laneway or residential area.

New areas for new communities – New late-night trading areas would be established in some of the city’s fastest-growing neighbourhoods, including Barangaroo, the Green Square town centre, Walsh Bay, Danks Street in Waterloo and around the East Village shopping centre in Zetland. The proposed trading hours for businesses in these new areas vary depending on type, capacity and potential impact.

Extended hours for unlicensed businesses – A new category of trading hours would be established for unlicensed shops, like bookstores and clothing shops, and businesses like gyms, drycleaners and hairdressers. This would allow them to trade up to 24 hours a day in the city centre and other busy inner-city areas, until 2am on village high streets, and until midnight in other areas. Later trading hours for these types of businesses would attract a wider range of people out at night for different activities, helping create a safer and more balanced night-time economy.

A new cultural precinct in Alexandria – A new 24-hour trading area with an arts, cultural and entertainment focus would be encouraged in a heritage warehouse precinct in north Alexandria, between McEvoy Street to the north and Alexandra Canal to the south. The area’s industrial character, proximity to existing and future public transport services, and distance from residential areas make it ideal for live performance, creative and cultural uses.

Expanding existing areas – Existing late-night trading areas in Chippendale, Redfern and west Surry Hills would be expanded to include nearby streets with a similar character, and businesses that have opened since the controls were last reviewed.

Additional hours for performance and culture – Dedicated performance venues would be allowed up to 250 patrons and permitted 1 additional trading hour at closing time on a trial basis. All other licensed venues that host performances would be permitted 1 extra trading hour at closing time on nights when they provide at least 45 minutes of performance.

The revised planning controls are available as part of 3.15 Late Night Trading under Section 3 of the Sydney Development Control Plan 2012. Businesses can apply to the City under the new provisions.

To support businesses trialling new events and activities at night, the City is offering matched funding through the night-time diversification and live music and performance grants. Applications open on 19 June 2019.


Open late for everyone

Our night-time economy focus emerged when we consulted with local communities about making Sydney a sustainable city by 2030.

Successful global cities have a strong cultural life and diverse night-time economy. Evidence shows that more diverse options lead to a more connected and resilient community, help create a more inclusive nightlife, and improve safety and reduce crime. 

People have told us they wanted better public transport and a city with a diverse and exciting night-time economy with events and activities for people of all ages and interests – they don't want a city that is unsafe or shuts down as soon as the sun goes down. 

Sydney's night-time economy is critical to our city's future – it generates more than $3.64 billion in revenue each year, with more than 4,600 businesses employing more than 32,000 people.

Our goal is to provide clear direction for Sydney's after-hours economy through to 2030, balancing all the factors.

The interests of everyone – local business owners, our increasing resident population and our highly expectant visitors – are being taken into account. Public safety is of course paramount.

An open and creative city

We asked for your feedback on our discussion paper, An Open and Creative City: planning for culture and the night-time economy.

The public consultation took place from 25 October to 13 December 2017 and the feedback included:

  • Strong support for cultural activities with minimal impacts, such as hosting a performance or public talk, to take place without development consent. People said the rules around these activities need to be as flexible as possible, while taking into account potential noise impacts on local residents.
  • Strong support for shops and local businesses in established retail areas, such as Oxford Street and mixed use areas like Surry Hills, to be able to trade from 7am to 10pm, 7 days a week, without requiring additional development consent.
  • Strong support for a new approach to managing entertainment noise, based on the 'agent of change' principle, where new residential developments near existing entertainment venues would need to be designed and built to manage the noise of the existing venue. People said this approach would better balance the rights and responsibilities of both venues and residents.

To find out more, download the consultation reports. The responses will inform our draft planning controls for late-night trading in Sydney.

Late-night trading in Sydney

We asked for your feedback from 26 February to 30 March 2018, about where and when late-night trading should happen in Sydney.

The main themes that emerged from the public consultation on our late-night trading development control plan included:

  • Strong support for trading hours for late-night premises across the city to increase, particularly in Green Square, Broadway and parts of Surry Hills.
  • Support for maintaining or increasing the size of late-night trading areas across the city, while ensuring popular precincts like Newtown remain safe and sustainable.
  • Strong support for more diverse late-night businesses including shops, restaurants, cafes, small bars, live music and performance spaces and cultural venues across the city.
  • Strong support for increased late-night activity in fast-growing parts of the city like Green Square.

To find out more, download the consultation reports.

We will seek expert input from our new Nightlife and Creative Sector Advisory Panel before recommending changes to the planning controls later this year. We will seek further feedback from the community on the proposed changes before they are finalised.

Global cities after dark

On 28 November 2017, over 120 participants came together for Sydney's inaugural Global Cities After Dark forum. You can review the outcomes report from the forum.

The forum was held again on 13 November 2018. The outcomes report will be available soon.

The forums brought together experts and local, national and international stakeholders to discuss and share ideas on night-time culture.  

Global Cities After Dark was presented in partnership between Electronic Music Conference and VibeLab founder Mirik Milan. The event was supported by the City of Sydney through a knowledge exchange grant.

OPEN Sydney

OPEN Sydney is the City's strategy and action plan for the long-term development of Sydney’s night-time economy to 2030. Council endorsed the strategy in February 2013.

The strategy was developed after extensive consultation with local communities. This included residents, focus groups, representatives from the retail, liquor and entertainment sectors as well as key government leaders. 

By 2030, we hope the night-time economy will be transformed from a focus on younger people and drinking to 40% of people being over 40. We also hope that 40% of operating businesses at night will be shops.

We're encouraging a larger variety of retailers and attractions to stay open late, to broaden people's choices of things to do at night.

The City hopes to double the city's night-time turnover to $30 billion and increase night-time employment by 25% to 100,000 jobs.   

NSW Government liquor law reviews

The City continues to seek opportunities for advocacy to make improvements to the liquor licensing system. We provided submissions to the state government reviews of small bars legislation and the 'lockout' laws.

We also provided a submission to the parliamentary inquiry into the music and arts economy. 

Research and data collection

The City conducts walking counts to inform us of walking trends across the city during the day and at night

Visitor surveys are commissioned to provide an overview of visitor profiles and experiences across the city's precincts during the day and at night. 

Research reports – strategy development

The following reports helped inform our strategy and action plan, OPEN Sydney.

Sydney has the largest night-time economy in Australia and it plays an important role in our positioning as a global city and our status as the gateway to Australia for international visitors. 

The Australian night-time economic report examines the size, nature and changes to Sydney's night-time economy each year since 2009, together with Australian capital cities and local government areas. It monitors changes across the key sectors of food, drink and entertainment in establishments, jobs and sales turnover.

Last updated: Thursday, 4 July 2019