By Andrew Starke
NSW Premier Nathan Rees has proposed a 12-month freeze on new liquor licences in an attempt to curb alcohol-related crime and violence in and around Sydney’s CBD.
The ban will mean no new bars, pubs and clubs will be permitted to open in three major inner city areas: King’s Cross, Oxford Street in Darlinghurst and the George Street entertainment precinct.
The announcement followed the first meeting of the newly established Sydney Liquor Taskforce co-chaired by Rees and Lord Mayor Clover Moore.
“The CBD needed a renewed focus and ideas to reduce the continuing unacceptable levels of violence,” Rees said. “According to police, assaults are falling but this is not happening fast enough.”
While Government believes parts of the city of Sydney are at saturation point in terms of the number of drinking venues and licences, an Opposition spokesperson pointed out only five new licences had been granted in the three ‘hot-spot’ areas in the past 12 months.
Moore said 100 liquor licences have been granted over the past year in the Sydney local government area, including 71 restaurants, three small bars and two full hotel approvals. The city has about 1900 licenced premises.
“The City of Sydney is particularly concerned to develop a legally enforceable mechanism to introduce a cap on the number of licensed premises in areas considered to be at or above maximum capacity," Moore said.
Moore denied the new measures represented a back flip from her previous initiative to attract small bar operations into the city centre by making liquor licences more affordable.
That policy, announced in November 2007, saw liquor licence fees dropped from $15,000 to $500 to encourage wine bars and boutiques to set-up in the CBD.
But Moore said the measures would not impact on small bars, which could still be established in areas other than those under review.