Thursday, 24 April 2008
Liquor Regulation 2008
NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing
GPO Box 7060
Sydney NSW 2000
I welcome the draft Liquor Regulation 2008, which will allow the new liquor regime to commence as scheduled in July. The new system follows a strong community campaign to support my Liquor Amendment (Small Bars and Restaurants) Bill 2007, which encouraged an alternate night economy in NSW through smaller, lower impact, boutique style bars.
I have concerns that the draft Regulation could provide unnecessary barriers to achieving the objectives of my Liquor Amendment (Small Bars and Restaurants) Bill and I make recommendations to remove these barriers. If only large high-impact venues are able to access the new system and the binge-drinking night culture continues to dominate, there will be widespread community disappointment.
I also recommend strengthening the new harm minimisation provisions.
Restaurants as Small Bars
In other jurisdictions such as Melbourne, restaurants are able to serve liquor without meals provided that tables and chairs stay set for 75 per cent of patrons and that the overall predominant activity is food service. My Bill adopted similar provisions, abolishing the expensive and restrictive dine-or-drink authority.
I am pleased that the Government’s Liquor Act does allow restaurants to serve liquor without food without needing a dine-or-drink authority. However, I am concerned by proposed Section 19 (1c) of the draft Regulation, which prevents on-premises licences with authorisations to sell liquor as the primary purpose at any time. This appears to mean that a restaurant could never become a bar because it would have to serve meals at all times and I am concerned that this provision did not appear in the Bill tabled in Parliament.
Restaurants must follow responsible service of alcohol requirements and must ensure that food is available at all times.
Table and chair provisions that were in my Bill would be more appropriate, as they would prevent the restaurant becoming a high-impact “beer barn” venue, while encouraging small entrepreneurial and eclectic venues that provide opportunities for young creative talent, particularly in the music industry.
* I strongly recommend that proposed Section 19 (1c) be amended so that the primary purpose test for restaurants does not apply at all times.
Community Impact Statement – Small Bars
While the Minister said in his Liquor Bill introduction speech that “community impact statements [would] apply in different formats to low impact licence applications” the Regulation treats all general bar licence applications in the same way as a hotel licence, regardless of size, with all general bar licence applications subject to the more rigorous format.
I do not believe that it is appropriate to treat all general bar licences as high-impact when the purpose of the category is to provide an alternative licence category for low-impact venues without gaming machines or take-away liquor, and where selling liquor is the primary purpose.
Instead the Regulation should differentiate between a high-impact and low-impact general bar licence to determine whether a “Category A” or “Category B” Community Impact Statement is required. Patron limits could be used, such as the 120 patron limit used in my Liquor Amendment (Small Bars and Restaurants) Bill and which is also used in the City of Sydney Late Night Trading Development Control Plan. Alternatively it could be at the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority’s discretion.
* I strongly recommend that the Regulation differentiate between low-impact and high-impact Community Impact Statements for general bar licences.
Community Impact Statements - Notification
The draft Regulation provides little detail about what will be required of applicants and stakeholders with regard to the Community Impact Statement and I am concerned that the Authority will have the necessary data to determine impact without unnecessary burdens on low-impact venues.
I strongly support requirements for all applications to go to Council and Police but Regulations should provide for evidence that notification requirements have been met.
* I recommend that the Regulations require applicants to show the Authority evidence that notification requirements have been met.
I have concerns that all applicants will be required to notify all premises within a 100 metre radius of the proposed licensed premises. In the inner city, 100 metres is a large area given the high densities.
The City of Sydney’s Notification of Planning and Development Applications Development Control Plan requires notification for late night trading trial period extensions within a radius of 25 metres, and new extended trading applications, places of public entertainment, pubs, clubs, bars and night clubs within a radius of 75 metres.
Instead of a one-size-fits all model, the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing or the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority should develop criteria to assess the level of notification dependent upon the potential impact of venues, given their size, activity, and location.
* I recommend that the one-size-fits-all notification requirements be changed to reflect potential impact based on the nature of the venue and the neighbourhood.
Councils and other stakeholders including residents that lodged a submission should be notified of the outcome of a licence determination. It is important that stakeholders are aware of approved licensed premises. The Authority should give reasons for the granting of the licence.
* I recommend that the Regulation require the Authority to inform stakeholders of licence determinations and provide reasons.
I strongly support the requirements for venues to keep incident registers if they have extended trading hours. Licensees should keep records of incidents during all operating hours to ensure proprietors and police are able to investigate crime and make connections between antisocial and criminal behaviour and licensed premises. Incident registers are useful to identify alcohol-related harm, and provide data that can help policing strategies such as the Alcohol Linking Project, which links crime and antisocial behaviour incidents to the licensed premises where perpetrators have been served.
* I recommend that the Regulation include requirements for all licensees to keep incident registers during all operating hours.
Binge drinking and alcohol induced violence are major concerns for my constituents living in late night trading precincts. Residents often complain to Council about particular venues and information in incident registers would help Councils address complaints. I note however that there are no requirements in the Act or the draft Regulation for a venue to provide a copy of the incident register to Council on request. I am concerned that without a legislative requirement Councils will not be able to access these incident registers.
* I recommend that the Regulation require that licensees provide copies of incident registers to councils upon request.
I strongly support provisions in the Act that allow for the creation of binding liquor accords with two or more parties, one of which must be a licensee, through the approval of the Commissioner of Police and the Director of Liquor and Gaming. Local liquor accords have significant harm minimisation potential, with strategies based on local conditions designed to increase safety and reduce crime and antisocial behaviour.
Liquor accords should be mandatory, as was resolved by the 2003 Alcohol Summit, This provision should be in the Regulation.
* I recommend that the Regulation require that participation in a liquor accord be mandatory.
Member for Sydney