Last month, Australian Hotelier reported on a series of keg thefts affecting Melbourne’s pubs, bars and breweries, expected to be setting the industry back more than $30,000.

A recent update from Victoria Police has revealed that three people have been arrested as part of an ongoing investigation into rising keg theft, after more than 200 empty kegs went missing in the city’s inner suburbs.

In relation to these thefts, police executed search warrants at a property on Phillip Street in Dallas on Friday 23 February, where they located around 60 of the missing kegs, and later executed additional search warrants.

A 34-year-old man, 32-year-old man and 49 year-old-woman were all arrested and have been charged with various counts, including theft, trespass, handling stolen goods and possessing proceeds of crime. Each of them will appear in Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court in August.

Further to this, inspections were carried out at metal recycling facilities across Melbourne by investigators, where it is alleged that many of the stolen kegs may have been sold.

One of the businesses impacted by the keg thefts was Hawkers Beer, which in this case had 60 kegs stolen over two nights, but has been targeted in ongoing instances over the last two years. When Australian Hotelier spoke to Hawkers Beer co-founder Mazen Hajjar, he said it was having a damaging impact on small businesses.

“The scrap metal value of these kegs is around $10 to $20 at best. So, people are taking a $200 keg from our business, scrapping it for $10 to $20, and affecting the livelihood of the 40 employees that work at Hawkers and our ability to deliver beer to our customers.

“The police need to take this seriously and crack down on it, because it is affecting hundreds of businesses and potentially thousands of employees. The game is so small compared to the damage being done. So far, our loss in kegs may be up to $100,000, on top of already tough conditions in the market.”

According to Nick Becker, general manager at keg rental company, Konvoy Kegs, each year keg thefts represent a loss of $18 million to $25 million in assets and approximately $175 million of potential revenue generation, which is set to disrupt the beer industry through supply issues and rising costs.

“Stolen or lost kegs creates circulation issues across the supply chain. As a general rule of thumb, for every full keg there needs to be four to six empty kegs to ensure there is enough to cover the production while having enough kegs at the distributor to ensure continuity of supply.

“If kegs are then lost, stolen or picked up by the wrong carrier, the producer needs to purchase more kegs to keep the supply chain and production facility turning over product. The only way brewers can recover this cost is through increasing price to customers which will then lead to an increase in price at the bar.”

In an earlier statement about the thefts, Sgt. Ryan Forde of the Yarra Crime Investigation Unit, said: “These offenders are not attempting to steal beer. It is clear they are targeting empty kegs to make cash. They are oblivious to the detrimental effect stealing kegs has on pubs and breweries.

“We are working closely with venues as we continue to investigate these incidents and find those responsible.

“We believe there have been more incidents across Melbourne, and we’re urging anyone with information to report them.”

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