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HomeLifestyleEntertainment WrapSpecial Entertainment Precincts in the Beaches’ pipeline

Special Entertainment Precincts in the Beaches’ pipeline

Designated zones in Manly and Brookvale may soon become part of proposed new ‘Special Entertainment Precincts’ that will allow live music venues to stay open longer, for up to two hours. Other businesses, such as retail shops and take-away cafés catering to their audiences and night owls, would also be able to stay open late – subject to Council approval via Development Consents – to complement the night-time economy. This will include extending outdoor dining until 11pm.

At a recent meeting of Northern Beaches Counci, Mayor Sue Heins introduced a ‘Mayoral Minute’ to propose that Council submit an Expression of Interest to the Office of the 24-Hour Economy Commissioner for the establishment of Special Entertainment Precincts on the Northern Beaches.

Mayor Sue Heins recommended Special Entertainment Precincts in a ‘Mayoral Minute’ at the March Council meeting.

The obvious choices would be Manly and Brookvale, she remarked, which already feature established evening music venues that attract a regular clientele (see below), although others, such as Dee Why, Narrabeen and Avalon, could follow.

It’s all part of recently introduced legislation ‘Vibrancy Reforms’ by the NSW Government to support live entertainment venues and businesses in the vicinity that cater to participants called the 24-Hour Economy Legislation Amendment Bill 2023.

According to the amendments there are six areas of change:

  1. Sensible venue sound management
  2. Vibrant, coordinated precincts
  3. An activated outdoors
  4. Empowering the 24-Hour Economy Commissioner to deliver a sustainable, thriving night-time economy
  5. Streamlined, contemporary licensing
  6. Improving the night-time for workers

The ’24-Hour Economy Commissioner’ is a pioneering initiative launched by the NSW Government with a statutorily-appointed role to oversee the expansion, licensing and supervision of after-hours entertainment and related retail.

A Special Entertainment Precinct can be a “streetscape or otherwise defined locality in the council’s area.” Photo: Alec Smart

The remit states the Commissioner has “the authority to provide oversight, coordination, and advocacy for a mix of diverse cultural, social and business activities and experience across the night-time economy.”

The inaugural Commissioner is Michael Rodrigues, who launched Time Out in Australia in 2007, the events and listings magazine and website, which initially started as a guide to entertainment in London, England, in 1968.

Enforcement of the Special Entertainment Precincts – from sound limits to operational hours to the power to revoke a licensed venue’s Responsible Service of Alcohol – would be overseen by the NSW Liquor and Gaming authority in coordination with NSW Police.

First trial successful

Inner West Council recently trialled the Special Entertainment Precinct program in their Enmore Road Precinct, which encompasses a 750m stretch between Newtown Station and Edgeware Rd, Enmore. The zone, with an enviable reputation for vibrant and varied nightlife, includes live music venues such as Enmore Theatre and The Duke public house; a range of diners from Cairo Takeaway to Stinking Bishops cheese emporium; The Urban Hotel and assorted chemists, restaurants, pubs and supermarkets.

First launched in September 2022, and then extended until July 2023, on Tuesday, 15 March, Inner West Council voted unanimously to make the Enmore Rd Precinct permanent.

UK synth-pop veterans The Human League onstage at Enmore Theatre in March 2024. Photo: Alec Smart

Inner West Council has also proposed four more precincts in Balmain/Rozelle, Dulwich Hill, Leichhardt, and Marrickville, where there are a mix of popular attractions including cinemas, restaurants and music venues – the latter including the renowned Factory Theatre and Bridge Hotel.

The Commissioner has opened an Expression of Interest (EOI) survey for councils considering establishing a Special Entertainment Precinct (SEP), which will remain open until Tuesday 30 April 2024. The EOI states: “The Minister for Planning and Public Spaces may only establish a SEP by amending a Local Environmental Plan (LEP) at the request of your council.”

At their 26 March meeting, Northern Beaches Council resolved the Mayoral Minute:

“Given Council’s commitment to the delivery of a diverse night-time economy (Priority 30 of Towards 2040 Local Strategic Planning Statement) and the Night-time Economy Study prepared for the draft Manly Place Plan, submitting an EOI is warranted to learn more about this program.”

Previously, on 22 June 2023, Council announced “Projects to enhance Brookvale and Freshwater as vibrant night-time destinations for locals and visitors are set to receive funding from the State Government.”

Several organisations received backing from the NSW Government’s Uptown Grant Program.

Where in Brookvale and Manly?

If Brookvale and Manly were identified as having Special Entertainment Precincts under the new ‘Vibrancy Reforms’, Brookvale might include the Mitchell Rd district, with interconnecting streets where at least six breweries operate – Bucketty’s, Dad and Dave’s, 4 Pines, Freshwater, Nomad, and 7th Day – four of which regularly host live music, as well as Label music venue on nearby Pittwater Rd.

Manly Corso, which already enjoys a busy nightlife, would make an ideal Special Entertainment Precinct. Photo: Alec Smart

The likely choice for Manly would be The Corso and the pedestrianised side streets, which already has a vibrant night time economy, with bars, restaurants and take-away meals and gelatos.

Venues hosting live music, from acoustic performers to bands on stage, include Donny’s, The Hold, Hotel Steyne, 4 Pines Brewing, Ivanhoe Hotel, Market Lane Café, New Brighton Hotel and The Wharf Bar. And of course, the Old Manly Boatshed, which has the distinction of being Manly’s longest running live music venue and Australia’s longest running comedy venue.

How have these come about?

On 11 December 2020, NSW Liquor and Gaming introduced reforms to “remove outdated conditions on live entertainment, and incentivise venues to put on live music and other arts and cultural events.”

This includes the automatic removal of certain live entertainment conditions, such as restrictions on:

* the types of musical genres (eg: distinguishing between hard rock and disco)

* the musical instruments played

* the illumination of performers by light shows,

* playing original compositions or cover music

* whether an audience is permitted to dance or remain stationary

* and even whether the bands face south, east, north or west (!).

Furthermore, Liquor & Gaming NSW Compliance inspectors and NSW Police no longer monitor whether venues are complying with the above licence conditions and Councils were given new powers to remove them. On page 61, under Special Entertainment Precincts, the document states: “A council may establish a special entertainment precinct in its area by amending its local environmental plan to identify the special entertainment precinct…”

The revised regulations and enforcements are contained in the 68-page document Liquor Amendment (Night-time Economy) Act 2020.

Northern Beaches band The Darrans play a gig in a mechanic’s yard near the breweries in Brookvale. Photo: Alec Smart

How late will venues remain open?

Under the NSW Government’s incentives to host live music : A 2-hour liquor trading extension may be granted on nights when the venue hosts a live music performance or event, for 45 minutes or more, after 8pm, if the venue’s development consent permits the extended trading.

Venue closure times vary across the Northern Beaches, depending on the individual premises (club, pub, nightclub, etc.), but the statutory licence conditions state: “Liquor must not be sold by retail on the licensed premises for a continuous period of 6 hours during each consecutive period of 24 hours…”

Manly Observer asked Council whether there will be a definite closure time for all live music venues in their chosen Special Entertainment Precincts (eg, all shut by 1am), and whether patrons may be refused entry after a certain time.

A Council spokesperson responded, “We are waiting for guidelines from the State Government on the process and details.”

24-Hour Economy Legislation (Vibrancy Reforms) Amendment Act 2023:  https://www.nsw.gov.au/business-and-economy/24-hour-economy/vibrancy-reforms

Live music venues on the Northern Beaches (as recommended by Manly Fig Bar in Seaforth):


Dancers celebrating the launch of Fusion Pride at Freshwater Brewery, Brookvale. Photo: Alec Smart


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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

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