The concept of a Night Time Economy (NTE) relates to the activities that a population undertakes between 6.00pm and 6.00am, and predominantly consists of dining, drinking and experiencing entertainment. The NTE is usually split into the evening economy (6.00pm to 12.00am), and the late-night economy (12.00am to 6.00am), and is becoming more recognised as a driver of economic growth and a substantial part of a nation’s economy.

After the introduction of the infamous Lockout Laws in Sydney in 2014, the city’s early closing hours have fostered a sense of dormancy in terms of its lack of nightlife. 

Deloitte’s 2019 report ImagineSydney: Play indicates that our city is losing out on an estimated $16b worth of business due to it’s early closing hours, unsurprisingly so, with restrictions on businesses meaning popular evening venues such as bars, pubs and clubs must close their doors to patrons at 1:30am and stop serving alcohol at 3am.  

As Lord Mayor Clover Moore put it; “the lockouts have had a serious impact on Sydney’s cultural life, businesses and our reputation overseas – and while areas like Kings Cross are safer, we know the balance isn’t right yet in terms of Sydney’s nightlife.” 

However, recent proposals and action plans by the City of Sydney are introducing potential for change, as the council strives towards changing Sydney’s reputation and transforming the CBD and its surrounding precincts into 24-hour economies.

Fundamental to these plans is the notion of reorienting Sydney’s late-night economy; one that currently revolves around drinking and clubbing, to include a more vibrant arts and culture sector by promoting live music performances and other, more diverse forms of entertainment.

Key Features of Sydney’s Updated Planning Controls:

  • A 24-hour city centre: 24 hour trading in the area bounded by Darling Harbour in the west to Hyde Park in the east and Central Station in the south.
  • Later hours in local centres: Trading hours for businesses along village main streets such as Crown St, Redfern St, Union St and Glebe Point Rd would be extended from 12am to 2am, to align with recent changes to NSW small bar laws.
  • New areas for new communities: New late night trading established in some of the city’s fastest-growing neighbourhoods including Barangaroo, the Green Square town centre, Danks Street in Waterloo and around the East Village shopping centre in Zetland. 
  • A new cultural precinct: A new 24-hour trading area with and 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.
  • Expanding existing areas: Existing late-night trading in areas Chippendale, Redfern, west Surry Hills and Llankelly Place in Potts Point would be expanded. 

These changes; the biggest in over 10 years, bring new opportunities to business owners and Sydney consumers.

  • The NSW Government has worked together with the company Urbis to create a “Guide for establishing and managing Night Time Economy uses” to help with the step-by-step planning and approval process for nighttime arts and culture initiatives.
  • 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.
  • Currently running businesses that hope to expand their open hours can apply via a development application process, and will be subject to trial periods, in which they will need to show how they mitigate the impact of noise on their neighbours. 


  • Despite taking into consideration the opinions of over 10,000 Sydney residents and visitors, these plans have been questioned by business owners – some already challenged by issues surrounding light rail construction in the CBD –  who are concerned about additional staffing costs and lack of late-night consumer demand. 
  • A 24-hour Economy is complimented by a reliable public transport system. Whilst Transport NSW has developed more convenient forms of transport in  recent years with the addition of the Metro, people living in areas ___ still face challenges travelling to and from the city as most trains stop between midnight and 4:30am

“We as Sydney residents have a role too. We can choose to make the effort to support the businesses and service providers who are operating at night and offering extended services, to demonstrate the demand for more options for our night time economy.”

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