By Andrew Starke

The NSW State Government has introduced tough new legislation – under the banner ‘Hassle Free Nights’ – which it hopes will curb alcohol related violence and anti-social behaviour in Sydney’s popular entertainment precincts.

One of the most important changes will see government empowered to impose licensing restrictions on premises it considers ‘violent’ without first needing a police or community complaint.

Government will also have the option of controlling the opening hours of individual premises, impose lock-outs or enforce service restrictions on any licensed premises it feels is high-risk.

“These tough changes go to the heart of the problems causing alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour – because they focus on prevention,” said NSW Premier, Kristina Keneally.

The Bill will provide legislative force for initiatives in the five entertainment precincts under Hassle Free Nights – Sydney CBD, Manly, Newcastle-Hamilton, Wollongong and Parramatta – and other parts of NSW.

The new Liquor Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 will implement plans to:

  • Set up Precinct Liquor Accords and Community Event Liquor Accords in alcohol hotspots across the State to provide extra resources to reduce liquor-related problems;
  • Introduce tough penalties for licensees failing to comply with requirements to participate and/or financially contribute to a Precinct or Community Event Liquor Accord; 
  • Ensure major events such as New Year’s Eve are safer by introducing temporary licence conditions to be imposed on licensed premises;
  • Strengthen the powers of the Director-General, Communities NSW to reduce pub and club trading hours across the State, and impose standardised liquor licence conditions on venues in Precinct Liquor Accord areas; 
  • Extend the temporary freeze on new liquor licences and related development applications in Darlinghurst, Kings Cross and the southern Sydney CDB for another 12 months;
  • Ensure individuals take responsibility for their actions and are penalised if they break the law; and
  • Apply liquor ‘tip out’ powers across alcohol prohibited areas in Precinct Liquor Accord and Community Event Liquor Accord areas which mirror measures currently available in alcohol free zones.

“All NSW residents have the right to enjoy a safe night out in our popular entertainment precincts without the hassle of alcohol-fuelled violence and anti-social behaviour,” Keneally said.

“Our tough stand on alcohol abuse has significantly reduced assaults and glassing attacks in licensed venues.”

The Bill includes establishing Precinct Liquor Accords in the five locations backed by a $1 million fund to support strategies to reduce alcohol problems in these local communities. It will also allow Precinct Liquor Accords to be established in hotspots in other parts of NSW.

Minister for Gaming and Racing, Kevin Greene, said all pubs, clubs and karaoke bars trading after midnight will be required to participate in any Precinct or Community Event Liquor Accord, with fines of up to $11,000 if they don’t comply.

“The Director-General, Communities NSW will also be able to order a licensee to make a financial contribution to a Precinct Liquor Accord, with a maximum fine of $5,500 and possible disciplinary action if they fail to comply,” he said. “This ensures that licensees in high risk precincts and areas where major events are being held are part of the solution in reducing alcohol-related harm.

“Precinct Liquor Accords will develop solutions to alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour,” Greene continued. “The Bill recognises this by providing examples of measures such as lockouts, patron security measures, and restrictions on alcohol service. It also recognises that police, local councils, and other businesses will play a key role in Precinct and Community Event Liquor Accords.”

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The Shout Team

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