Australia: Unprecedented Liquor Licence Restrictions Announced For 48 NSW Premises - Could Your Premises Be Next?

Last Updated: 12 November 2008
Article by Christina Renner

New Draconian restrictions will be placed on 48 hotels and clubs throughout NSW from December 1 as anti-licensed premises hysteria reaches new peaks in NSW. A full list of the affected premises is extracted below. The list could conceivably be extended to other venues shortly.

Region

Location name

Suburb

Central Sydney

PONTOON BAR

Sydney CBD

ORIENT HOTEL

Sydney CBD

CARGO BAR

Sydney CBD

SCRUFFY MURPHYS

Sydney CBD

HOME NIGHTCLUB

Darling Harbour

OXFORD HOTEL

Darlinghurst

EXCHANGE HOTEL

Darlinghurst

ARQ SYDNEY

Darlinghurst

STONEWALL HOTEL

Darlinghurst

TAYLOR SQUARE HOTEL

Darlinghurst

VEGAS HOTEL

Potts Point

PICCADILLY HOTEL

Potts Point

FIRST EMPIRE HOTEL

Potts Point

Eastern Beaches

COOGEE BAY HOTEL

Coogee

BONDI HOTEL

Bondi

THE EASTERN

Bondi Junction

Northern Beaches

STEYNE HOTEL

Manly

MONA VALE HOTEL

Mona Vale

Western Suburbs

MEAN FIDDLER

Rouse Hill

PENRITH RUGBY LEAGUE CLUB LIMITED

Penrith

EMBASSY HOTEL

Penrith

ALB ION HOTEL

Parramatta

PJ GALLAGHERS

Parramatta

ROXY HOTEL

Parramatta

ONE WORLD SPORT PARRAMATTA

Parramatta

EPPING HOTEL

Epping

ROOTY HILL RSL CLUB LIMITED

Rooty Hill

South/Southern

Beaches

NORTHIES - CRONULLA HOTEL

Cronulla

FUSION

Cronulla

AKA NIGHTCLUB BAR

Sutherland

CAMPBELLTOWN CATHOLIC CLUB LTD

Campbelltown

PEAKHURST INN

Peakhurst

Western NSW

COMMERCIAL HOTEL

Dubbo

STANDARD HOTEL

Orange

IMPERIAL HOTEL

Tamworth

OXFORD TAVERN

Bathurst

South Coast

GLASSHOUSE TAVERN

Wollongong

Central Coast

CROWNE PLAZA TERRIGAL

Terrigal

TERRIGAL HOTEL

Terrigal

CENTRAL COAST LEAGUES CLUB LIMITED

Gosford

IGUANA JOES

Gosford

CLUB HOUSE HOTEL

Maitland

BEACHCOMBER RESORT & CONFERENCE CENTRE

(Florida Beach Bar)

Toukley

ALTITUDE NIGHTCLUB

Port Macquarie

South Western

NSW

CAPITAL NIGHTCLUB

Wagga Wagga

FLAMINGOS NITESPOT

Goulburn

ROI BAR

Albury

Northern NSW

MARY GILHOOLEY'S IRISH PUB & REST.

Lismore

On October 30, Premier Nathan Rees announced "a comprehensive set of new initiatives to deal with the of alcohol fuelled violence problem".

His "bold first step" in this regard is to impose restrictive conditions on the licences of 48 premises across the State that have been identified by the Commissioner of Police and the Director of the Office of Liquor and Gaming as "likely to be alcohol violence hot spots over the summer".

It is unclear how this opinion was reached, and it is significant to note that the list of 48 premises identified as likely "alcohol violence hot spots" does not match up to the list of top 100 premises in NSW for alcohol related violence that was compiled by the Sydney Morning Herald from ABS data in March this year. For example, 4 of the 13 "hot spot" premises in Central Sydney do not even appear on the statistics for the top 100 premises for assault, Cargo Bar, Home Nightclub, ARQ Sydney and Piccadilly Hotel. Another four of those premises are well outside of the top 50, earning a ranking of equal 78th only (Exchange Hotel, the Oxford Hotel, Pontoon Bar and Stonewall Hotel.)

These new restrictive conditions will include:

  • mandatory 2am lock-outs;
  • cessation of alcohol service 30 minutes before closing time;
  • plastic or polycarbonate glasses after midnight;
  • no shots and drink purchase limits after midnight; and
  • 10-minute alcohol sale 'time-outs' every hour after midnight.

It is interesting to note that a 2am lockout is being introduced shortly after the three month trial of a similar 2am lockout in Melbourne has been declared a failure, with the Victorians now looking for better and more well-considered solutions to the alleged "binge drinking epidemic".

While most of these measures are clearly aimed at the responsible service of alcohol, the lock-out is arguably unrelated, and could well result in more violence, as angry patrons find themselves locked out on the streets.

Where Melbourne imposed a three month trial only, there does not appear to be any end in sight for the NSW restrictions, with the Premier merely stating that "we will refine and tweak the policy settings and implementation as required. If the team identifies new problems over the summer, we can add to or improve these conditions. Similarly, if licensed premises clean up their act over the summer and succeed in reducing incidents of alcohol-related violence, then we will consider amending these conditions."

The Premier has said that he will also review the security arrangements in place for each of these pubs and clubs. Venues may be required to provide extra security and drink marshals to monitor alcohol consumption levels, or fund security at nearby taxi ranks or bus services.

Such conditions have traditionally only been imposed upon licences as a largely penal measure by the former Licensing Court and Liquor Administration Board in response to complaints made against a specific premises, or a number of premises. However, it appears that this new spate of widespread restrictions is not in response to any individual complaints made against the specific premises, which makes this action unprecedented.

The Liquor Act 2007 provides both the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority and the Director of Liquor, Gaming & Racing with the power to vary the conditions of existing liquor licences. Where this is proposed however, the licensee must be given notice of the proposed variation and must be provided with a reasonable opportunity to make submissions in relation to that variation. Any other person may also make submissions. Submissions must be taken into consideration before making a decision to vary licence conditions. Where the decision to vary licence conditions is made by the Director, this decision may be appealed to the Authority. Where the decision is made by the Authority there is no right of appeal. However, we believe there would be some limited scope to appeal to the Supreme Court on procedural fairness grounds - for example if the Authority fails to allow the licensee an opportunity to make submissions, or if the decision is manifestly unreasonable.

Operators of the named premises should be vigilant and should demand to be provided with adequate notice of all proposed conditions, and allowed a reasonable time in which to make submissions. It is important to ensure that submissions are made in relation to any proposed variation.

Operators of other venues should be warned that these restrictions could be extended to their premises also, particularly if they are located in the vicinity of any of the named premises, as it is apparent that the police will be looking to extend the 2am lock-out if a "local spill-over effect" can be identified.

Clubs and Hotels should also be aware that this is said to be merely the "first step to address a drinking culture that, in some cases, has been out of control".

The Premier has indicated that he is aiming to introduce longer term initiatives, including a graduated statewide sanctions scheme. Somewhat alarmingly, he has suggested that the sanctions could start with what appears to be disproportionately heavy penalties such as mandatory conditions like lock-outs for first-time incidents, going right up to removal of licences for repeat offenders.

It is also proposed to introduce new laws to:

  • impose a freeze on any new 24-hour licence;
  • limit new licences to 18-hour trading; and
  • review conditions of all existing licences.

These measures, particularly any lock-out or reduction in trading hours, have the potential to impact the economic viability of affected premises. There may also be implications for the value of the club/hotel property or businesses, which may reduce the value of any security held by mortgagees.

The lock-out may have a devastating impact on venues that are unable to provide outdoor smoking areas, as patrons will not be able to re-enter the premises after 2am, even if they had merely exited briefly to smoke.

Consultation with the industry has been promised in the development of these measures. Operators should keep an eye out for any developments and should ensure that they are heard as part of this process.

We will watch, with trepidation, any further developments affecting licensed premises and report on them as they arise.

Sydney

   

Anthony Whealy

t (02) 9931 4867

e awhealy@nsw.gadens.com.au

Christina Renner

t (02) 9931 4701

e crenner@nsw.gadens.com.au

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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