Since Mike Baird introduced the lockout laws in 2014, as many as 175 Sydney venues have closed, and Keep Sydney Open (KSO) has made a lot of noise.
The activist group officially registered as a political party in March, but has flown under the radar since. “It was amazing when we realised we’d been registered,” campaign manager and founder Tyson Koh tells Broadsheet.
The transition seemed inevitable to Koh, as the movement gained momentum hosting numerous rallies and putting pressure on the government to relax lockout laws for certain venues. But outrage over the laws, introduced to curb alcohol-related violence in the Sydney CBD, proved a catalyst for action on broader issues, which will form the core of KSO’s political agenda.
“When we really paid attention to the people, who had been following us and were a part of this movement, we saw that they were pissed off about a lot more than just the lockouts,” he says. “They were concerned about culture in general, about prioritising the needs of casino barons and developers ahead of the community’s [needs] … about transport, planning, law enforcement and health.”
With less than 10 months until the next state election, the newly minted party has spent the last few months going through legislation, dealing with the electoral commission and managing the logistics of becoming a legitimate political player. With its first member’s meeting to be held in five weeks time, the party has organised a live event – Party Party – at the Kings Cross Hotel on June 30 to celebrate its transformation from grassroots agitators to little box you can tick on your ballot sheet.
“We’ve spent the time between March and now getting all our ducks in a row,” says Koh. “Our policy framework will start to take shape after our first member’s meeting, but at the moment we just want to celebrate that we’re in a position to change the conversation in the lead up to the next election.”
Spread out over six floors, the party will showcase Sydney’s vibrancy and diversity with a host of local musicians and artists. Basenji and Roland Tings will be kicking the night off with DJ sets, followed by Triple J’s Luen Jacobs and music collective Body Type DJs.
On the back of KSO’s relentless campaigning, the Kings Cross Hotel – which was hit hard by lockout laws – was one of the venues granted a 30-minute relaxation, meaning its doors will be open until 2am but the bar will operate until 3.30am.
Party Party will be held on June 30 from 9pm at Kings Cross Hotel.