Hamilton at 5am, and not a kebab shop in sight

IT seems such a long time ago.

In 1991 Newcastle City Council approved development applications for food outlets on the corner of Beaumont and Cleary streets in Hamilton. The three stores could operate seven days a week, with closure times of 10pm on weekdays, midnight on Saturdays and 8pm on Sundays.

It is highly unlikely anyone but the owners themselves paid any attention.

In 1991 NSW was still largely operating under regulated shopping trading hours. What became known as the store wars that ushered in deregulated trading hours had not yet started. A 10pm weeknight closing time would have seemed a reasonable and acceptable condition to apply to a suburban food outlet like a kebab store.

The store wars changed a lot of things, not least public expectations of when and for how long they could expect stores to remain open.

It was major supermarkets that led the push for deregulated trading hours across Australia in the 1990s, arguing that legislation restricting when stores could open and close restricted consumers’ rights to shop. They argued that deregulation would be a boost to small business and would create “thousands of jobs”.

By 1992 the major supermarket campaign, assisted by the media, achieved extended trading hours in NSW, and ushered in a new era of public expectation and retail response that revolutionised the state’s commercial and retail landscape.

We are still dealing with the legacy issues – including controversial changes to weekend penalty rates that were set in the pre-deregulation era.

There appears to be little doubt the gradual extension of trading hours at the three Hamilton takeaway outlets at the Oasis food court was in line with the gradual concept of a 24/7 consumer landscape – where at any time of day a retailer would be open to meet demand.

Police moves last month to have the closing times adhered to – rather than the 5am closing times they eventually operated under – are an attempt to limit reasons why people would gather in the area, and an attempt to reduce violent incidents.

The matter is now with the council which must consider the commercial realities and consumer expectations of 2017, rather than 1991, in determining new reasonable closing times for the food outlets.

It is a fine line the council will be walking.

Issue: 38,566.