By Andrew Starke

The owners of bars and late-night bottle shops in Victoria are bracing themselves for a new wave of licensing costs and restrictions to their operating hours after changes announced to the Brumby Labor Government’s risk-based liquor licence fee structure.

Consumer Affairs Minister Tony Robinson said the changes to the fee structure were made after extensive community and industry consultation.

“The Brumby Labor Government is reforming the liquor licensing system because we want Victorians to be able to enjoy a night out in safety,” he said.

“The purpose of the risk-based fees is to make venues associated with the most harm to the community pay the most, to recover the real cost of regulating and policing the industry and keeping our venues safe.

The new fee structure means large, late night venues will continue to pay the highest fees while smaller, earlier closing venues will pay commensurately less.

Under the finalised fee structure: venues with a patron capacity below 200 will not pay a risk fee based on patron numbers; venues open until 1am will not pay a risk fee based on patron numbers; venues with function centres closing at 1am will be able to apply to the Director of Liquor Licensing to have their function room capacity excluded from their total patron numbers, reducing the cost of their fee; and sexually explicit entertainment venues will pay around $30,000.

Robinson said consultations with the community and industry showed widespread support for a new fee structure that targeted the venues that cost more to police and regulate.

“From our consultations, it was clear the community expected more policing and regulation of sexually explicit entertainment venues than venues like restaurants and cafes,” he said.

“Late night, large capacity pubs and nightclubs will pay more, no matter where they are in Victoria, because they present the biggest threat to community safety and cost more to keep safe.”

Robinson said all licensees were on notice that poor compliance histories would increase the cost of liquor licences from 2011.

“After next year, breaches of Victoria’s liquor laws will add to the cost of a licence, so licensees of poorly managed venues will find themselves paying significantly higher fees,” he said.

To assist small and not-for-profit venues, the Director of Liquor Licensing will have the discretion to reduce or waive fees for premises with less than five employees.

Off-premise establishments have also been left counting the cost of new restrictions on late-trading Melbourne businesses.

Yesterday (Oct 18) The Sunday Age revealed that all three 24-hour liquor stores in the Melbourne CBD have had their hours slashed and have been ordered to close at 11pm as part of a crackdown by the Liquor Licensing Commission.

The clampdown comes as leading public health groups called on the state’s justice system to back more strongly the commission’s efforts to curb hotel and bottle shop licences, warning that the courts were exposing citizens to increasing violence.

In 2006, the State Government pledged that no new bottle shop or ”packaged” liquor licences would be granted for trading after midnight. But this is the first time trading hours of existing late-night outlets have been restricted, the newspaper reported.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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