Melbourne's small bar scene has been given a reprieve with the seven-year ban on new late-night liquor licences set to end.
The newly elected Andrews Government has passed a licencing scheme that will see exemptions to the general inner-city licence freeze created for small bars. There are three categories in which exempt venues must fall, offering either live music performance, accommodation, or continuous food service. Additionally, all the venues must have a capacity of 200 people or less.
Under the scheme there are reportedly over 200 venues that would now be eligible to have their licences extended past 1am.
According to the Herald Sun, the Gaming and Liquor Regulation Minister Jane Garrett believes that the exemptions were a sensible course of action for the diverse city of Melbourne, and the Lord Mayor’s office has cautiously welcomed the move.
However, health and law enforcement officials are divided on the issue, with some drug and alcohol experts criticising the move for its potential to increase related violent incidents.
While the small venue exemptions will not be extended to packaged liquor outlets, temporary late-night licences could potentially be granted during major events such as New Year’s Eve, or the AFL Grand Final. Conversely, the state government has continued the freeze on “booze barn” licences, with that legislation extended until 2019.
The initial freeze was introduced in 2008 when the, then Labor, government was trialling lockouts after a spate of alcohol-related violence. While the latter was abandoned, the licence freeze was continued.
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