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Levins Has Some Words to Say About Sydney's New Nightlife Laws

"Don't be a Fuckwit."
January 27, 2014, 10:30pm

As we mentioned in our Killing It column last week, the city of Sydney, Australia may have just crippled its own nightlife industry. In response to a perceived uptick in "alchohol-fueled violence," the city has imposed increased fines for disorderly conduct, new licensing schemes for bars and clubs, and a 130AM lock-out policy implemented across the city's central business district. Nightlife professionals argue that some of these restrictions could not only hurt their businesses, but could endanger the city's favored status among touring performers and DJs.

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At one point last week my Twitter timeline was full of Australians complaining about the policy changes, and one of the most vocal detractors was photobombing legend, master chef, and badman selector DJ Levins. His "Don't be a Fuckwit" campaign—which picked up local media buzz after he took his grievances to Twitter—advocates for increased "fuckwit awarness," which he believes could solve the problem of violence better than lock-outs and licenses ever could. "Imagine a statewide fuckwit awareness commercial," he tweeted recently, "that culminated in a father yelling, 'DON'T BE A FUCKWIT, JESSICA' at his daughter."

The campaign caught fire faster than he intended—mostly because it was just a poignant joke that got taken too far. Since the time difference between us is so drastic, and we were only catching bits and pieces of what is going on with "Don't be a Fuckwit," we hit up Levins directly to get the deets.

THUMP: Hey Levins!
Levins: Hello.

What are you doing right now, besides being a new dad?
Just dealing with all this ridiculousness.

Can you to explain to the United States of America what is going on in Sydney right now?
There have been a handful of violent attacks at night in the nightclub district in the last few months.

Attacks meaning fights?
Yeah! Two young men were killed after being "king-hit."

What is a king-hit? Explain that to America.
A king-hit is when someone is knocked out after one punch.

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Oh so it's like our knockout game,but with drunk Australian bros.
Yeah. Obviously it's extremely dangerous due to the force of the punch, but also when the victim's head hits the pavement.

What do they call bros there again? Bogans?
Yeah, Bogans. But these guys are more like juiceheads—huge tanks that go out looking for a fight. Anyway the media labeled these attacks as "alcohol-fueled violence" and put pressure on the government to enforce new rules on nightclubs in Kings Cross and the CBD [both of the major nightclub areas in Sydney]. They got the parents of the victims involved—it was a huge frenzy and very over-hyped. Both of our newspapers were one-upping each other until boiling point this weekend and they are blaming it all on alcohol…

What time were these attacks at?
The two main ones being talked about that resulted in the death of two young men were separate—one was about 9PM and the other 10PM.

Whoa, pretty early huh?
Yeah, really early. Nobody is going to a nightclub at 9pm, then leaving after getting shitfaced and knocking some poor kid out. The attackers are huge hulking dudes that just go out to the city to start trouble. Like, that's their outlet. Some people have drinks with friends, other people listen to music—these guys go to the city alone, get into a fight and go home. On Tuesday, the NSW premier announced the proposal of new laws that would affect all nightclubs from the CBD to Kings Cross.

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So it hasn't happened yet, it's a proposal?
They will come into effect by March.

Shit. So what is the difference between the nightclub laws now and the laws when that goes into effect?
Now, we are able to keep our doors open and sell alcohol until 5AM, but the main law that affects us is that after 130AM no clubs will be able to let anyone new in. They are putting a lock-out in place, and then at 3AM all clubs have to cease selling alcohol.

That's a little extreme.
It's very extreme. All of the new laws are here.

You own a bar, correct?
I run the restaurant in a bar. It's called The Dip. My friend Jimmy Sing owns Goodgod, a small club, and I run parties there almost every week too.

So how would this effect you? Would the restaurant have to close early too?
Goodgod and other venues like it rely on that late trade to turn a profit. If they can't support themselves under the new laws, The Dip won't be able to stay open either. Mostly it affects the nightclub, and all the amazing things that Jimmy and everyone involved have done over the past 4 years to create a unique and incredible place. Can I quote Jimmy?

Yeah of course.
He wrote this in an article and i think it sums up our position really well: "Goodgod was started to provide an answer to the problems with Sydney's nightlife culture. Barry O'Farrell's laws don't just fail to address these issues, but their broad, one-size-fits-all nature also poses a serious threat to solutions like us. They compromise our ability to deliver on our ethos of creating an iconic Sydney club, where music is celebrated and music lovers can enthusiastically party in a welcoming and safe environment." It's taken from this excellent article.

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So you started a campaign.
Well, no. This is the really funny and insane part. On Tuesday after all the new laws were announced I was thinking about how most of the laws wouldn't actually do anything to stop the violence, and how this over hyped-term "alcohol-fueled violence" has just created so much hysteria.

Yeah, if anything it may make it worse. People will know they have like 3 hours and get totally smashed.
Exactly! It happens in all the rural cities where similar laws have been imposed. Everyone spills out into the streets and there are no cabs. People get angry and hit each other. The new laws announcement just feels very quickly thrown together to avoid further media scrutiny—it's like they haven't thought it through and it won't get the outcomes they want. Instead it will damage an important late-night culture.

Also can't that actually really hurt the city?
From an income point of view? Totally! So my "campaign" came about after i read another article, where it was suggested that we don't call it "alcohol-fueled violence," we call it "scumbag-fueled violence." And I thought—wouldn't it be great if there was a statewide campaign which was just "Don't be a Fuckwit," where the public and the police work together to stop people being fuckwits? Such a beautiful idea, right? So I tweeted this, and a few other jokes about it. Later that night I had been quoted in the main Sydney newspaper.

Oh man.
At 10PM a friend let me know that my face was on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald website, underneath the heading, "Thousand sign petition against 'draconian' drink laws." I was the first name referenced in an article focused on the reactions of "young partygoers." My "Don't be a Fuckwit" campaign tweet was written as if the paper had called me for a quote and that was what I had decided to give them, which I absolutely saw the funny side to, so I shared the article right away. A hundred likes later and I realized that I might soon need to clarify that I wasn't actually a part of the movement who had started a petition against the new laws, nor had I ever used the word 'draconian' in my lifetime. I actually wound up writing this. Wait until you see some of the responses! There are some good bits in there.

So how will you continue this draconian war? WTF does that even mean?
It means "over the top" and "harsh." There are a group of club owners and promoters speaking out against the new laws before they come into place. A large collective is protesting at town hall.

Isn't there some big Australian EDM dude that can save you guys? Like on some Footloose DJ shit?
Nah, this is the government. They'll put their foot down just to keep the media happy. People are nuts over it. Nobody is listening to reason. Meanwhile there are another far smaller group of people who think that a "Don't Be A Fuckwit" campaign is a genius idea and that I should pursue it. I honestly just love the idea of "Don't be a Fuckwit" being a real campaign.

Connected with Levins:
Soundcloud Levins

Now this is a campaign that Jess can get behind. Follow her -@JubileeDJ