Australia has suffered a number of blows from Sydney’s lockout laws to the alcohol licensing freeze in Melbourne. The adult entertainment industry seemed to be under threat for a while now and not just because of COVID. Political wars found themselves being fought around whether there should a clamp on gentlemens club or not. A night out in Melbourne is not the same anymore because of the “morality laws” that politicians have been playing around with.

The government might say, they are putting creativity at the heart Melbourne’s nightlife recovery and speak about the billions of dollars that a revamped CBD, it forgets that the industry is so much more about enabling people to have a livelihood. It’s like saying, the DJs, dancers, bouncers, and liquor sellers have little to contribute to the economy. This is of course not true. And regardless of how we choose to look at things, stripping is part of the nightlife culture. You cannot restrict licenses for liquor to 1am, you are killing whatever economic spin off that could have been created by these businesses

The Victorian government has been stealthily chipping away at the adult entertainment industry. When the government tried to implement a lockout rule for 2am it was met with an overwhelming wave of resistance. The support however has been waning. Then they dressed up the laws as a measure to reduce alcohol fuelled violence. Initially, there was to be a temporary freeze on establishments serving alcohol past 1am but businesses made a strong case against it. It doesn’t make sense to promote a vibrant city night life where customers can only drink until 1am. It defeated the whole purpose of having late night entertainment venues. A couple of clubs actually folded because of this.

Cities that implemented such laws also suffered a reputational hit. For example when Sydney implemented their own lockout laws they found that their credibility as a hip cultural city was eroded. This led to billion lost in trade. This is one of the reasons that the laws were revoked in 2021.

Victoria has allowed exemptions since 2015 and the laws might be more relaxed now than they were but this seems to be a running battle between regulators and business owners. There is hope that the government will adopt a law that satisfies the economy and social benefits. Regulators have to take the greater community’s concerns into consideration. Already, the inner city precincts that have taken a hard line against adult-entertainment venues may be moving into these areas where businesses are failing and closing. Sometimes, residents don’t have moral issues but they may be worried about the noise and the kind of people that frequent these clubs. It’s not about the kind of business that are being run inside a gentlemens club, but more about what happens outside these venues.

The population has increased from 31,000 to 170,000 in 2021 after the government’s initiative to encourage migration into the city in the early 1990s. Yes, safety is crucial, but you cannot deny people access to the spaces they have used to build a sense of community.