Newcastle’s small bar trial gets the green light

From left: Chris Wilson – The Koutetsu, Sean Gaddes – Coal and Cedar, Prudence Farquhar and Byron Marzinotto – Blue Kahunas. Photo: Jake Buchan

Newcastle is Australia’s seventh largest city, bigger than our capital Canberra. Bet you didn’t know that, amiright? We recently heard from Prudence Farquhar who is one of the owners of Blue Kahunas in Newcastle. She has some exciting news for the small bar scene with a trial scheduled to kick off in a couple of weeks to relax some of the draconian licensing laws in the beachside town. Here’s what Prudence had to say:

Story by Prudence Farquhar, Co-owner at Blue Kahunas, Newcastle

It’s nice to be able to share a good news story. It’s September 2020 and a small bar trial is on the cards for Newcastle!

Newcastle is the best of both worlds, a grungy city located right next to the beach. It used to have a great music and cultural scene with large pubs and a University increasing the younger demographic.

Newcastle was the first city to trial lockout laws all the way back in 2008, when Sydney was evolving its cultural offering with the introduction of the small bar licence. The lockouts were originally intended for only 14 local venues which were all large hotels. Slowly but surely this spread all Newcastle’s night life – both large and small operators alike.  The lockout conditions include not being able to serve a mixed drink with more than 30ml of alcohol after 10pm (prohibiting the ability to serve cocktails) and all small bars have to shut at midnight rather than 2am.

Small bar operators in Newcastle have had the odds stacked against them with these tough measures. As Sydney’s probation period in place to reverse the lock out laws the conversation started around what we can do to better Newcastle’s nightlife. It seemed like a natural progression.

We have been subjected to some of the strictest conditions for small bars in the country. So earlier in the year after approaching our local member to discuss Newcastle licensing conditions, we have received the go ahead for a trial to relax the strict conditions on our small bars and restaurants. A committee board comprising of key stakeholders is currently working on a six to 12 month trial to relax the licensing conditions for both small bars and restaurants as well as small bars given the trading extension until 2am.

The trial is set to start on October 1st, 2020 with 26 small bars and restaurants registered. Among this group small bars including Blue Kahunas, Coal and Cedar and The Koutetsu are on board. It’s an incredibly exciting time in Newcastle’s small bar scene. Not only will this trial propel the industry forward and create a more diverse drinking culture, it should encourage more operators to consider Newcastle as a vibrant city to open shop. After licensing conditions and the most recent COVID-19 restrictions things are really looking up for small bar operators and the overall night life in Newcastle.